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One famous dictum of chazal is the expression acharon, acharon chaviv. This is simply understood to mean that the last of a sequential collection of items is the most beloved. I was once told by HaChaver Chaim Victor A”H that this dictum should truly be understood as the second to last is the most beloved. If chazal truly intended that the last is the most beloved they would have simply said “acharon chaviv.” The extra mention of acharon indicates a step back from the very last.
Indeed, in life we usually find celebratory ceremony at culminating events. We may regard these important and essential. However, the true substance and content is the accomplishment that precedes the celebratory event.
We may bring a proof to this idea from Rashi in parshas Vayishlach. The posuk there describes how Yaakov lined up his wives and children in preparation to meet Esav. The order was first the maidservants and their children then Leah and her children and finally Rachel and her son Yosef (Bereishis 33:2). Rashi comments that the order was based on the principle of acharon acharon chaviv. This would simply seem to imply that Rachel and Yosef were the most beloved in Yaakov’s eyes and were thus last. Indeed, the posuk says that Yaakov loved Rachel and does not say this for Leah (Bereishis 29:18). However, Rashi there comment on the words “Leah and her children.” If Rashi meant that Rachel was the most beloved he should have commented on the words “Rachel and Yosef,” or to avoid confusion directed his words at the very beginning of the posuk when mentioning the maidservants and their children. Rashi, by focusing on Leah and her sons seems to indicate that it was Leah and her sons that were the most beloved. Perhaps this was because she was the mother of many shevatim whereas Rachel was only the mother of Yosef. If we accept the idea that acharon acharon chaviv means the second to last then indeed this would be the correct place for Rashi to insert his comments, for Leah and her sons were second to last.
Based upon this idea we may note that this week’s parsha, being that it is the second to last in the Torah, fits in the category of “acharon acharon chaviv.” Certainly, all the parshios of the Torah are beloved. By focusing on one particular parsha and saying it is the most beloved indicates that here lies a chibbah yiseirah, i.e., a greater love.
The Mishna (Amos 3:18) says: He [R’ Akivah] used to say: Beloved is man for he was created in Hashem’s image. It is indicative of a greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in Hashem’s image as it says “For in the image of Hashem he made man (Bereishis 3:18). The Mishna presents two degrees of love, beloved and a greater love. What is the significance of these two levels?
The Sfas Emes explains that although man is beloved because he was created in the image of Hashem perhaps this was only true before Man sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. It is fair to suggest that after the sin, the love was removed or diminished. In response to this the mishnah says that Hashem has granted Man a greater love by letting him know that even after his sins he can still return to the state of being in the image of Hashem through repentance and the performance of mitzvos. Chibbah yiseirah is thus characterized by man’s ability to return to Hashem even after sin.
In this weeks parsha we read shiras haazinu. Regarding the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah the posuk says, “So now write this song for yourselves and teach it to the children of Israel” (Devarim 31:19). Rashi explains that the song here refers to shiras haazinu. The entire Torah is called a shirah because it includes this song. Chazal tell us that the significance of this song is the fact that hidden in it are all the events of history from the beginning of time to the end. The shirah reveals how the Jewish people will sin by abandoning Hashem, suffer greatly as a consequence and eventually return to him and witness the final redemption. The shirah captures the idea of chibbah yiseirah, i.e., the greater love. It relates that although the Jewish people will sin they will eventually return to Hashem. Indeed, the word shirah comes from the word shir which means a circle. The shirah relates how eventually the Jewish people will return back to their roots just as a circle returns to origin.
In conclusion, parshas haazinu is the second to last parsha of the Torah. It is acharon acharon chaviv. This term may homiletically be interpreted to mean that it contains chibah yiseirah. The concept of chibbah yiseirah as mentioned in Avos and as explained by the Sfas Emes refers to man’s ability to fully return to Hashem and regain that which was lost as a consequence of sin. Shiras haazinu captures the flavor of chibbah yiseirah for it reveals how the Jewish people will eventually return to Hashem.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2003