For the week ending 11 February 2023 / 20 Shevat 5783

Perek Shira: The Song of the Camel

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The Camel says:

“From on high, Hashem will roar, and from His holy dwelling, He will sound His voice. He will roar and shout about His abode.” (Yirmiyah 25:30)

The camel is incredibly resilient to the intense heat of the desert and can go for nine days without water. It does not need refined food and can eat even thorns. The camel can thus be seen as a symbol of survival in the desert.

The Sages teach that the camel represents the Babylonian exile, based on the observation that the verse in Tehillim 137:8 describes the word “gemul” (retribution), as the same word-root for “gamal” (camel). We may explain the meaning of this symbolism as follows: The Jewish People’s exile to the spiritual desert of Babylonia is similar to a camel entering a vast desert. In the same way that a camel survives by storing water in its hump, the Jewish People remained connected to the Torah through the one thousand expert Torah scholars who joined them in that exile.

The Zohar states that when the Jewish People reached Babylonia, Hashem roared in anguish over His devastated Beit HaMikdash and His exiled children, as it is written, “Hashem roars from on high, and from His holy dwelling He emits His voice. He roars and shouts about His abode.” It is therefore fitting that the camel, which represents the Babylonian exile, sings this verse. Even though the Babylonian exile has long since come to an end, the camel’s song is relevant to our current state of exile as well. Indeed, the Sages teach that Hashem roars in this way three times every night.

Even if we cannot hear Hashem’s thrice-nightly roars of anguish, we should not forget His love for us, and how mightily He yearns for our return. The longer our nation’s state of exile extends, the harder it is to relate to Hashem and to return to Him. However, the rules of our relationship remain

the same. Hashem treats small mitzvahs in our generation like great feats of faith in bygone days, and He treats sins with a measure of leniency in consideration of the times in which we live. In the same way as Hashem designed the camel to be able to cross a desert, He designed us to cross the exile. And every day, He is waiting for us to do so.

  • Sources: Zohar, Parashas Vayakhel 196a; Vayikra Rabbah 13:51; Gittin 81a; Daas Shalom; Tzaltzal Knafayim; Kol Rinah, citing Berachos 3a; Arizal. See also Knaf Renanim.

*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib

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