Friday, October 30, 2009

Parashat Lech Lecha - Genesis 12 - 17

Parashat* Lech Lecha - B'resheet (Genesis) 12 -1 7

Avram, whom we met at the end of last week's Parasha, is now singled out from the rest of his kin and community. He is commanded to go forth and leave behind him his native country, heritage and culture (12:1). The expression "lech lecha" (literally, "go for yourself") can best be rendered in English as the emphatic: "go forth" or "get yourself going". The alliteration makes it especially forceful and commanding.

Avram is promised a large progeny and a great blessing that will also be extended to those who bless this progeny. In fact, this seed is destined to be a blessing to "all the families of the earth" (12:3). “Family” is “mishpacha”, of the root (shin, pey/fey, chet), which is also the root for a word found in 16:1 of our Parasha, “shifcha” – “handmaiden” (in reference to Hagar). It is thought that the root means to "pour water”, perhaps on the hands of one’s master (in 2 Kings 3:11 Elisha is said to have poured water on the hands of his master, Elijah), and hence “handmaiden”. But even though the etymological connection between “handmaiden” and “family” does not appear to be sufficiently clear, their spiritual and/or social connection is. The family affords opportunities for its members to learn to serve, a factor which maintains its strength and unity, while at the same time causing it to become a source of blessing to society as a whole. In 12:2 and 3 “blessing”, which is "bracha", appears five times in several forms. (bet, resh, kaf) also makes up the root for “knee” ("berech"). Bowing the knee is always associated with humility ("to Me every knee shall bow…" Is. 45:23). Thus, experiencing a blessing humbles its recipient, stirring him to bend or bow the knee in gracious thankfulness.

This first promise to Avram involves a land. The next promise has to do with a nation (ref. 12:1,2). Immediately upon entering the Land, Avram is seen building an altar and moving on. In the next two verses (8,9) mention is made of three of the four directions of the wind: “east, west and south”. In Biblical Hebrew there are several words for each of those, the ones used here being "kedem", "yam", and "negev". In YHVH's promises to Avram, in 13:14, mention is made of all of those, with the addition of “north”, which is "tzafon".

The root of “east” - “kedem” - is k.d.m (kof, dalet, mem), with its primal meaning being "before" or "in front of". Thus, its derivatives are to “greet” or “meet" (Deut. 23:4; Mic. 6:6), "early” and "first". Words such as "old" and "ancient" also stem from "kedem" (as are the “everlasting hills” promised to Yoseph – Joseph – in Deut. 33:15, and the term "kadmoni" – “ancient” in 1st Sam. 24:13). The root k.d.m, therefore, reveals an interesting approach to the dimensions of time and space. That which is "in front", is also that which is "early", from “antiquity” and of the “past”. Thus, “kedem, the “east”, denotes what is “ahead”, and at the same time that which was. In Kohelet (Ecclesiastics) 1:9 it says: “That which has been is that which shall be,” a fact that is certainly true of our Elohim, “who is, and who was, and who is coming” (Rev. 11:17). "Kadim" is the east wind which many times spells blight and dryness (e.g. Job 27:21; Ps. 48:7), while the prophet Y’chezkel (Ezekiel) saw the glory of the Elohim of Israel coming from the same direction ("kadim", i.e. the “east”, in 43:1,2). One of the best known usages of "kedem" is found in B'resheet (Genesis) 3:24, referring to the place where Elohim expelled our renegade ancestors: "east of Eden".“

West” here is "yam". Yam means “sea”, and since the "Great Sea" (the Mediterranean) shore runs the entire length of Israel's west, it has become synonymous with that direction. “

Negev”, is the word here for “south”, and is used to denote wilderness and dryness, but a reference to the "forest land of the negev" is made in Y’chezkel 20:47. It is in the same prophecy where the fires that would consume every tree there (as indeed they have) are mentioned.

The last direction is "north" - “tzafon”, the root of which is tz.f.n (tzadi, pe/fe, noon), and means to “conceal or hide". That same word is used when Moshe (Moses) was hidden for the first three months after his birth (Ex. 2:2). In T’hilim/Psalms 27:5 we read about being hidden by YHVH in His succah (booth), and in 83:3 about YHVH’s “hidden ones”. The north also conceals evil, and it is from there that "evil will break forth", according to Y’rmiyahu’s (Jeremiah) prophecy (1: 14). The proud king of Babylon declares his position to be "on the mount of the assembly in the far north" (Is. 14:13), words that are countered by the Elohim of Israel in T’hilim 48:1,2, proclaiming that His holy mountain, Mount Tziyon (Zion), is in the far north.

After receiving the promise of a land extending in every direction, and a seed so numerous (rendering it) too great to count (13:14-16), Avram builds another altar, this time in Alonei Mamreh, which is Chevron (Hebron). It is from that location that he sets forth to rescue his nephew Lot, who was taken captive in the war between the kings (four against five in chapter 14). It is here (14:13) that we first encounter the term "Hebrew", "ivri", attached to Avram's name, after his ancestor Ever, whom we mentioned last week. Indeed, Avram is now entitled to this ‘label’ as he ‘crossed over’, both physically and spiritually! When he returns, after having accomplished his mission successfully, he is greeted by the king of S’dom (Sodom) in the Valley of Shaveh. “Shaveh” is “equality, agreement, or resemblance”, and in this case probably an “even plain”. “I have set YHVH always before me” (Ps. 16:8), reads in Hebrew: “I have envisioned [or imagined] YHVH before me… "which is "shiviti" indicating that one sees Him at one’s eye level (as He is near to those who call upon Him). The valley of “shaveh” is also called here the “Kings' Valley”, and is (apparently) the place where Avram meets another king. His encounter with the king of S’dom, in this 'valley or plain of evenness', is being interrupted by the appearance (at ‘eye level’) of another monarch, Malchitzedek king of Shalem (Salem).

The root of “shalem”, sh.l.m - shin, lamed, mem, is “perfection, wholeness, completeness and requital”. This king, whose name means "king of righteousness", is also a priest of the Most High God (“El Elyon”). Thus, in his ‘persona’ are met the two offices of king and priest (ref. Zec. 6:13). In his blessing to Avram, whom he serves with bread and wine, Malchitzedek invokes “El Elyon” (“Most High God”), calling Him "possessor of heaven and earth". "Possessor" here is "koneh", and simply means "buyer", thus connoting “redeemer (of heaven and earth)”. When Chava (Eve) gave birth to Kayin (Cain), she exclaimed: "I have purchased (‘kaniti’) a man from YHVH" (Gen. 4:1, deeming that the pain and “sorrow” of giving birth was the price she paid Adonai for her firstborn). Malchitzedek gives thanks once again to "El Elyon", who has "delivered Avram's enemies into his hand" (ref. 14: 20), using “migen” for "delivered", which stems from the root meaning "shield or protection".

Avram gives his newly-met acquaintance "a tenth (‘ma'aser’) of all", an act which concludes this encounter. At this point the text recaptures Avram's tryst with the king of S’dom, but the language of the next few verses seems to be colored by what had just taken place during the encounter with the king of Shalem. Upon being offered the spoils of the war, Avram answers the king of S’dom by mentioning the name of YHVH, repeating the expression "El Elyon - Most High God - the purchaser of heaven and earth" (ve. 22). He then refuses the king’s offer, on the grounds that it should not be said that he had been made rich by the latter. The word for "rich" is "ashir", of the same root as "eser"- "ten" (the consonant for "sh" and "s" being one and the same; "shin" when denoting “sh” and "sin" when denoting “s”), from which we get the “tenth part”, or the “tithe” – “ma’aser” - that Avram had just paid Malchitzedek. As this scene with the king of S’dom fades, another one comes into view – the description of a vision in which YHVH speaks to Avram: "Fear not Avram, I am your shield…" (15:1). The word used for "shield" here is "mah’gen", a different form of which we saw in Malchizedek's blessing of Avram a few verses above. Thus, the echo of that dramatic meeting continues to accompany the events that follow it.

When Avram wonders what it is that Adonai (the Lord), who promises him a great reward, will give him "seeing that [he is] childless…" (ve.2), he is granted a promise of a son. Once again he is told that his progeny will be numerous. Avram "believed God". The root for "believe" is "a.m.n", from which we get the term "amen". It is also the root word for “trust, steady, faithful”, for “nurse” (Num. 11:12), “guardian” (2 Kings 10:1), and for “bringing up and training” (Est. 2:7). Proverbs/Mishley 8 cites the call of Wisdom-personified. In verses 29-30 Wisdom says, "when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was the craftsman at His side…". The word here for "craftsman" is "amon", once again, from the root a.m.n. Faith, therefore, is the act of believing which involves 1) training, and 2) action - in other words, practice. Putting convictions into practice is guaranteed many a time by a covenant. Thus, in N’chem’ya (Nehemiah) 9:38 we see the people making “a sure covenant”, which in that particular text depicts the root a.m.n, again and is therefore termed “amana.” Based on this understanding, the Apostle Ya'acov (James) writes: "Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (1:22); "… Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (2:17).

Avram experiences an awe-inspiring vision, in which the Covenant is confirmed. In Hebrew the experience and the Covenant are called “habrit ben habtarim” - "the covenant between the cut up pieces". The infinitive of “cut up”, "ba'ter", also means to “dissect or dismember” (15:10). In verse 17 those pieces are called "gzarim", from the verb “gazor", meaning, once again, "cut up". Verse 18 says, "on that day YHVH cut [literally] a Covenant with Avram…". This time the word for "cut" is "ka’rot" (which is also used frequently for cutting down trees). These powerful verbs point to the irrevocability and depth of this Covenant. It is no wonder then, that the very sign of the Covenant itself involves a cutting - a removal of the foreskin - which is recorded in 17:10-14, after Yishamel's birth and Avram's name change, augmented by the words: “The uncircumcised male whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off [stemming from “ka’rot”] from his people…” (17:14 italics added).

Yishmael’s birth came as a result of Sarah resorting to a common custom of surrogate parenthood (such as Rachel and Leah did when giving their maids to their husband, and Joseph, who had his grandson’s wife give birth “on his knees”, as it were, for the purpose of making the great grand children his own). This is how Sarah approached her husband: “’See now, YHVH has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2). The literal rendition of “obtain children by her” is “I will be builte’ba’ne’ - by/through her.” Above we examined the word “mishpacha” – family. Aside from the particular functions and characteristics of the “family,” such as the ones that we looked at, “family” is also likened to a building which grows tier by tier, floor by floor. No wonder the apostles referred to the body of believers as to a building, and used the imagery of stones (see 1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 2:21; 1 Pet. 2:5). Sarah too had the same idea in mind when she said, “I will be built by her [Hagar the maid].” In the root word b.n.a (bet, noon, hey), build, is hidden, not surprisingly, the word “ben” – son. Thus, when Sarah was expecting the maid to help her out, she was thinking of “being built by having a son.” However, the matriarch soon discovered that Hagar was not about to merely “lend” her womb. She had other notions. Hence, when Sarah discerned Hagar’s ambitions, she was forced to send her away.

In 17:4,5 Elohim declares that He was changing Av’ram’s name from “exalted father,” to Avra'ham, because he is to become “a father to multitudes” of nations. . Technically, this name change involves adding only the letter "hey" (comparable to "h"), which stands for the word "hamon", meaning a multitude or multitudes. Hamon is of the root verb "hama", which is “boisterous, noisy, roaring”; thus the promised multitude was to become a teeming one, and rather loud at that! This "hamon" is to be made up of nations or peoples (“goyim”). Interestingly, all these lofty promises, along with the institution of circumcision, are couched in very brief but concise terms. Thus, our text provides a good example of the compactness and conciseness so characteristic of Biblical Hebrew.

Sarai's destiny also changes with a single letter (v. 15). The last letter of her name, being "yod" (comparable to “y”), is exchanged for a "hey", thus making her Sarah, "a princess", who will not only mother a son, but “nations and kings of nations” are also to come from her (17:16).

In the course of dealing with these forefathers' names, YHVH does not forget the offspring. Since Avraham laughs at the prospect of having a child, seeing that he and is wife are so old, he is told to name this future son Yitzchak, meaning, "he will laugh". No doubt, in the end, the One who will have the last laugh in this story is the One responsible for giving this name, the One who “sits in the heavens and laughs” (Ps. 2:4). And as we shall see next week, there is more laughing to come…

*“Parashat” is “Parasha of…”, thus the Parasha of B’resheet is Parashat B’resheet, and this week’s Parasha of Lech Lecha, is Parashat Lech Lecha.

Parashat Noach (Noah) - Genesis 6:9 - 11:32

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Noach (Noah) - B'resheet (Genesis) 6:9 – 11:32

In this Parasha, as is the case in many others, we find certain key words (words stemming from the same three letter root) which are repeated within a given passage, or strewn throughout the text. In the first section of this Parasha there are two words that are repeated several times over. Later on we also find a few derivatives of Noach’s name scattered in a number of places.

In Parashat B’resheet 5:29 Noach’s name was explained: “Now he called his name Noach, saying, this one will comfort us… “ The root for the verb “to comfort”, in this instance, is (nun, chet, mem), pronounced "nachem". Noach’s name, however, does not contain the consonant “m” (the letter “mem” in Hebrew). And whereas in his dark and evil generation he was a comfort to Elohim, his name actually means “rest” (, noon, vav, chet). At the end of Parashat B’resheet, in Genesis 6:6, there is another reference to the root We read there: “And YHVH repented [or “regretted”, that is “was sorry”] that He had made man on the earth”. “Repented” there is “(va)yinachem”. But how is “comfort” related to “regret” or to “being sorry”? The root’s primary meaning is to be “sorry”, which shows that only deep empathy with another’s sorrow can be a source of genuine comfort at a time of grief.

At the end of our Parasha an explanation is given for the name Ba’vel (Babel). According to 11:7,9 “Ba’vel” was so named because “there Elohim confused the language” of the builders of the tower. However, the verb “confuse” used in verses 7 and 9 is “balal”, and although similar in sound Ba'vel and the verb balal are not identical. “Bavel” actually means (in the Sumerian and Akkadian languages) “Gate of El (god)”. The names Noach and Bavel are two examples of how the Tanach (O.T.) employs puns (for another such case refer Joshua 5:9).

Now back to “rest”. Ironically, Noach lives in a time of great unrest prevailing among the world’s populous, a fact that also leads to major natural disruptions. Yet, in the midst of it all, calm can be found in the 'eye of the storm' represented by the one who was found righteous at that time (ref. 6:9; 7:1), and by the place of refuge that he was constructing. In 8:4 we find the Ark “resting upon the mountains of Ararat” (italics added). Following the raven, a dove is sent out “to see if the water had abated… and finds no resting place for the sole of her foot…. “ (8:8,9 italics added). Rest is depicted and even highlighted here against the backdrop of a great tumult. When Noach, his family and the animals come out of the ark, Noach builds an altar. In 8:21 we read: “And YHVH smelled the soothing aroma”. The word for “soothing” is “nicho’ach”, which is, once again, of the root "nuch" – that is, “rest”. Do these words constitute subtle tidings of future peace and rest?

In YHVH’s Word it is not only the existing word, or expression, which deserves attention. Frequently it is the absent one that arouses interest, as well as the reason for its absence. Such, for example, is the case with the dove that was sent “to see if the water had receded”. “Receded” in this case is “kalu” spelt with a “kof”, rather than the expected “kalu” with the letter “kaf” (meaning “finished, done, completed”). However, the “kalu” used here means “having become light, or of little substance”, from which stems “k’lala”- "curse" (and literally, to “make something of no esteem”). In 8:12 YHVH says: “I will never again curse [a’ka’lel] the ground”. Was Noach using this unusual form of “recede”, bearing in mind the cause for the great deluge which was YHVH’s curse?

Last week, we dealt with the root of “erev” (“evening”), which means a “pledge”, but also “mixture” (being but two of its many other meanings). This time, it is the “raven” (“orev”), which shares this same root. The association between “raven” and “evening” is found in the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) 5:11, where the beloved’s dark curls are compared to the dark raven. The black fowl, therefore, borrows its name from the evening’s fading light (and hence darkness).

At the beginning of our Parasha we are told about the corruption that all mankind is entrenched in (6:11), the word there being “tisha’chet”, of the root (shin, chet, tav), which primarily means to “destroy or destruction”. In verses 12, 13 and 17, derivatives of this root appear four times, both as “corruption” and also as the verb for the “destruction” which YHVH is about to mete out to the entire earth and its inhabitants. Inherent in the verb “sha’chot”, therefore, is corruption's self-destructiveness. Additionally, the impact of the verb “sha’chot” (with a “tav” at the end) receives an extra emphasis, as it evokes a similar sounding verb with a different “t” consonant at the end (“tet”), which means to “slaughter”. In Yishayahu (Isaiah) 11:9 (and 65:25) we read the following: “They shall not hurt nor destroy – yash’chitu - in all My holy mountain”. Interestingly, this condition of ‘no destruction’ is also characterized by water (of at leat the imagery of it). Let us continue reading in Yishayahu: “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHVH as the waters cover the sea (italics added).”

The other noun repeated in these selfsame verses (of chapter 6), is “chamas” (ch.m.s., chet, mem, samech), which is translated “violence”; “…And the earth was filled with violence” (6:11, ref. also v. 13). “Chamas”, as a rule, is connected to sinful acts of violence and injustice. This verb (which is also a noun) rhymes with another - “chamad”. The latter means to “delight”, but can also mean to “desire or covet” (as was the case with the fruit of the tree in Gen. 3:6, which seemed “desirable – nechmad - to make one wise”). Quite often similar sounding words, like “chamas” and “chamad”, are also connected in meaning. Thus, the violent actions of “chamas” are motivated by covetousness, or unbridled desire. (Is it a lingual coincidence, then, that Chamas is also the name of the notorious terror organization in the Middle East, bearing in mind the similarities between Arabic and Hebrew?)

Planted right in the midst of these descriptions of corruption, violence and pending destruction, is the only (potential) solution: the Ark - "tey'va". More than a millenium later another 'savior' will be protected by a "tey'va" (though translated "basket" in English) which will float on water. It is going to be Moshe. In the process of the building this Ark, our attention is first drawn to the act of propitiation and atonement: “kippur.” “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood… and… cover it inside and out with pitch" (6:14 italics added). The verb and noun for the action (of “covering”) and the material itself (“pitch”) are of the root, k.f.r (kaf, pey/fey* resh) – which makes up “kippur”. Thus, this Ark is to become a shelter, offering a covering for the sins of the age, as it were. The rabbis believe that anyone, among those who had watched it being built through the many years of its construction, could have also found refuge in it. Instead, the spectators chose to scoff and ridicule its builder. In most other cases, the verb and the noun stemming from the root k.f.r are used directly in connection with ‘atonement’ (e.g. Daniel 9:24) or as ‘payment of a price, or ransom’ (e.g. Num. 35:31).

The very principles of atonement, and its causes, also find expression in our Parasha. Thus we read in chapter 9:4-6: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning … From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed…” (v. 4-6). Indeed, for atonement to be effective, blood is imperative.

The importance of covering is brought out one more time in this Parasha, in the story of Noach’s three sons’ reaction to their father's drunken stupor. Cham (Ham), the son who looks upon his father’s nakedness, is condemned by a curse of slavery which is pronounced upon his son Cna’an (Canaan) (9:20-26), whose name stems from the root “subdued” (k.n.a, kaf, noon, ayin)."

And it happened in the six hundred and first year, at the beginning, on the first of the month that the waters were dried up from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked. And, behold, the face of the earth was dried!” (8:13). “Dried” in both instances in the above verse is “cha’rvu”. In 7:22 we read, “all that was in the dry land, died.” Once again, “dry land” is “charava”. Both the verb, as well as the noun, are of the root ch.r.v (chet, resh, vet) which is also the root for “waste, desolate, attack, sword, plunder, wage war, fight” and more. It is interesting that in Hebrew thought “dryness”, denoting lack of water and rain (and hence drought), is commensurate with terms associated with lifelessness and destruction, which points to the shortage of water characterizing the land of Israel (even before the latter is ever mentioned!).

When emerging out of the ark, Noach and his family are given the same ‘marching orders’ as was Adam, their ‘proto-type’ predecessor. They are to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (9:1). The injunction to be fruitful is “pru”. In the 10th generation, one of Noach’s descendants, Avram (Abram) will be informed, this time by the bestowal of a blessing, that he will become “fruitful” (Gen. 17:6), while four generations later his great-grandson will be named, in faith, “multiple fruitfulness” – that is - Ephraim.

Among the many names found in our Parasha, there are three in particular that call for our attention. All three persons are second cousins: the first is Yefet’s (Jepheth) grandson, the son of Yavan (Javan) - Dodanim (or Rodanim, as he is called in 1 Ch. 1:7); the second is Cham’s (Ham) grandson, the son of Cush – Nimrod; and the third is Shem’s grandson by his son Arpachshad, who is named Ever (Eber).

Yavan is the Hebrew word for Greece. Down the road of history Greece will become a major power of unprecedented influence over the entire world in a number of areas, one of which is government. Yavan’s son’s two names, Dodanim and Rodanim mean, respectively, “cousins and rulers” (“rdu”, connected to Rodanim, is the verb YHVH used when He told Adam and Chava to subdue the earth in Gen. 1:28. Now this mandate will be carried out by the sons of Greece-Yavan). His cousin, Cham’s grandson, Nimrod, is the one who builds Bavel; a place, which will become synonymous with the ‘world hierarchal systems’, especially as pertaining to religious matters. Nimrod means, “we will rebel”, and rebel he does by setting up his own kingdom, as a direct counterfeit of God’s Kingdom (10:10).

The third cousin, Shem’s grandson Ever, is of the firstborn lineage. It is his name which is given to the entire race - the Hebrews (“Ivrim”), who are to represent Elohim’s Kingdom on earth. The name Ever is derived from the verb to “pass or cross over”, a fact that this race will be seen demonstrating throughout biblical history, beginning with Avram. We will observe the Hebrews passing over from one place, or condition, to another, whether in a physical sense or otherwise, in order to earn the name of the forbearer. .

The generation of the “cousins” (is it a coincidence that one of them is actually named “Dodanim” - “cousins”?) was a unique one, having left its imprint upon humanity to this very day.

We read above that Noach and his sons were to “fill the land”. This “filling”, quite likely, was not meant only in a physical sense. But instead, Nimrod and the other inhabitants of the Shinar Valley (ref. 10:2, 10) had rebelled against Elohim and busied themselves erecting a tower, which, by their own admittance was designed to prevent their scattering on earth (ref. 11:4). The verb in Hebrew, “nafutz” may be a derivative of either the root “putz”, or “nafatz”, both of which convey violent action (Jer. 23:29 – “a hammer that breaks the rock”; “… dashes your little ones against the rock”, Ps. 137 9). It was the sons of Noach from whom “the whole earth was populated” (9:19) that is “scattered” (n.f.z. again). This usage of this particular verb here, with its various negative connotation, is totally appropriate for the spread of this largely rebellious population. We read that it is YHVH who has “scattered – va’ya’fets - them abroad” (11:8), because, as He states: “Indeed, the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they will begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (11:6). “Propose to do” is “yazmu”, while in Modern Hebrew this term refers to “initiatives” and “projects”, in Biblical Hebrew the root y.z.m. is “unrestrained activity”, and not surprisingly is analogous to the verbs “zamom”, which is “to devise wickedness”, and “zamah” which is “to lust”.

At the very end of the Parasha we are introduced to the “exalted father” - Av’ram, whose goings forth, preceded by the command “lech lecha” (“go!”), will be reported next, in a Parasha by the same name.

* The p and f sounds are designated by the same letter and may be pronounced as “p” in one form of the word, and as an “f” in another. The same is also true about the “b” and “v” sounds.
Posted by Ephraim and Rimona at 4:28 AM

Parashat B'resheet Genesis 1:1 - 6:8

The Hebrew language is characterized by remarkable conciseness, which allows information to be conveyed in very succinct forms. Along with that, it is also a very picturesque language, and often content and form (in the Tanach, especially) are congruous. Thus, this first Parasha, being as it is, a narrative of the origins, is replete with information, eternal patterns and principles, yet all are communicated very briefly, with matching terminology. In fact, the latter deserves individual attention. Although this time we will not be able to cover the full gamut of terms included in Parashat (“Parasha of”) B’resheet, in the weeks to come several of the others will ‘pop up’ in other Parashot (plural for Parasha), and it is then that we will try to do them justice.

God’s name appears here as the composite “Elohim”, of the root “el”, meaning “strong, mighty, powerful”. Elohim is in the plural form, a fact which lends the word much greater dimensions. But in addition to that, Elohim includes “El”, which is another word for God, as well as “Eloha”, yet one more word, of the same root, for God.

B’resheet is both the name of the first Parasha, and the name of the book of Genesis. “B’resheet bara Elohim…” At the first –b’resheet - created - bara – Elohim - God. The meaning of r’sheet is “first, beginning, start and prominence” and it stems from the root (the letters are resh, alef, shin), being the word for “head”. (Notice the river in 2:10 that comes out of Eden and divides into four streams. The latter are also called here “heads”). The usage of this phraseology, therefore, establishes a foundation that the prime and first cause is Elohim, who is the initiator of everything. It is written in Colossians 1:16,17 it is written of Messiah Yeshua: “For by Him all things were created, in the heavens and on earth… He is also the head of the Body… and He is the beginning… so that He might come to have first place in everything” (italics added). This above passage indeed exhausts “r’sheet” to its fullest. Interestingly, the very first 3 letters which constitute the Bible’s opening word, “b’re(sheet)” are also the same as the ones that make up the next word, “bara”, which is “created” (the letters being bet, resh, alef). Thus, “created” appears twice in a row in the very beginning of the Holy Writ, as if to add an extra emphasis to the fact that Elohim is truly the Creator. Note that the verb “bara”, to “create”, refers exclusively to the Creator, and never to man. The adjective for “healthy” or “fat” – “bari” (such as in Gen. 41:2; Jud. 3:17) also stems from the same root, as do verbs such as, to “clear up” an area (e.g. Josh. 17:15), and “eat” (2nd Sam. 12:17); the latter two almost opposing each other. This plethora (and other connected verbs) points to the act of creation as being multi-facetted. In fact the primary meaning of “bara” is to “release the varying elements or materials so as to enable them to exist, materialize, express themselves, or grow.”

The act of creation involved processes of separation. YHVH* separated light from darkness (Gen. 1:4); water from water (vs. 6,7). He created the lights in the heaven to separate the night from the day, and the seasons one from the other (vs. 15,18). He also distinguished between the different types of flora and fauna, between man and woman, and finally between the weekdays and the Shabbat. The verb used for separating is “havdel” (of the root b.d.l, bet, dalet, lamed), to “divide or separate.” One word about the light and darkness: The word for darkness is choshech ( - chet, shin, kaf). The verb for deprive or withhold (as it appears in Genesis 39:9, for example) shares a very similar root - (chet, sin, kaf). Thus the small vowel change, of the letter "shin" into a "sin," reveals that "darkness" is simply a condition in which light is being withheld and is therefore only a "default state."

But when He separated the water from the land, Elohim said: “Let the water under the heavens be gathered - yikavu - to one place” (1:9). A “mikveh”, is therefore a place of the gathering of water and stems from the root, k.v.h.(kof, vav, hey), which is also the word for “hope". Each time we read in English “wait for the Lord,” the verb in Hebrew is “kaveh.” Thus, our hope is found while we are being gathered unto Him who is our Mikveh: “Oh YHVH, the hope ("mikveh", here, rather than the standard "tikva") of Israel… “ is the cry of the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) in 17:13. According to Romans 6:3-5, we have been immersed into Him, which makes Him the mikveh (traditional Jewish place of immersion), “for in hope we have been saved” (Rom. 8:24 italics added). Our hope, then, lies in the fact that we are in Him, and He is in us, and therefore we now walk in new life (see Rom. 4:3; 4, John 17:23) as a new creation. Thus the "mikveh" stands for a place of being gathered to, and for 'immersion in hope', seen both in the act of creation and in the act of the spiritual re-birth.

The creation having been a progressive process, each day's accomplishment was in preparation for the one that was to follow. And whereas before we touched on the 'separation' aspect of creation, here we see its integrative aspect. Separation and integration, though seemingly mutually exclusive, actually work hand in hand and are typical of the Hebraic mind and character, and nowhere is this better exemplified than in the first and second chapters of the Bible.

Although each day's creative work was different from the next, the days were separated one from the other in an identical manner, by an evening and a morning. This was possibly done in order to set the pattern for the days that were to come, which, unlike the days of creation, were to be identical one to the other. The day began in the evening - erev - and it is interesting to note that among its many meanings, “erev” also means a “pledge” or a “guarantee.” Thus, the promise of the day to come is found in the twilight of its predecessor. “Boker”, "morning", is another word rich in diverse meanings, one of which is to “inquire, frequent or visit”, connoting concern and care (see Ezk. 34:12). Once again, there is an assurance for things hoped for from the One who is in charge of Time and who operates within it (e.g. Jer. 33:25, Lam. 3:22-23), as is apparent from 2:2. Elohim is seen there “resting” (after having completed His work), while the word in Hebrew is “sha’va’t” of the root sh.b/v.t meaning to “"cease”, and is similar to the root, to "sit”. It is this root, which also forms the word “Shabbat”.

As for the pinnacle of creation, man and woman, they were created "in the image and likeness" of their Creator (v. 26). “Image” is "tzelem" - from the root “tzel” which is a “shadow”. At best a human being may reflect the Almighty in the same way a two dimensional shadow 'represents' a three-dimensional object. “Likeness” is “d'moot”, which contains the word “dam” – "blood" (from which are derived words such as “adama” for “earth”, “adom” for “red” and “adam”, of course, for “man”). Here we see a clear connection to the Messiah, who incarnated in a flesh and blood body as the “Second Adam”. Man and woman were created different and at different times, yet “in the image (tzelem) of God created He him, male and female created He them” (v. 28). Once again we see differentiation and oneness together. He - man - was created both male and female, and likewise the male and the female together reflect the "tzelem" of the one Elohim. In 2:24 we read that they were to become “one flesh”, and yet that could only take place after woman was taken out (separated) from man’s own body (ref. 2:21,21).

One more point concerning this union: In 2:18, 20 the woman as the "help suitable" (as translated in most versions) for man is actually described as a help “contrary or opposite” to him – “ezer ke’negdo” (“neged” being “in front of” or “opposite to”). Originally, Chava* (Eve) was to be a counterpart of Adam, not an inferior being in subjection to him. Rather, the two were to contrast and complement one another as two opposite forces do, attracting and polarizing at the same time thus creating life-giving energy.

In the last verse (25) of chapter 2 we read: ”And they were both naked ("aroomim"/plural), the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. In 3:7 a major change takes place, and so we read: “And the eyes of the two of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed for themselves girdles of fig leaves”. The man and his wife made for themselves covering from the leaves of the fig tree, speak of their attitude, as the word for “fig” - t'ena – is closely related (at least in sound) to “to'ana” which is a “pretext” or “looking for reasons.” In Shoftim (Judges) 14:4 Shimshon (Samson) is seen looking for such a pretext or “an occasion against the Philistines.”

In 3:21 we read: "And He clothed them, - va’yalbishem, a verb whose root is, which is the verb for to “dress” and also forms the word for “clothes, garment” – “l’vush” or “malbush”. In 2:25 we read that “the man and his wife were naked and not ashamed”, the verb for “being ashamed” (plural) being, “yit’boshashu” of the root Thus, although of no etymological connection, because of the similarity of consonants some rabbinical interpretations connect “l’vush” – garment, to “bosh” - “shame” (remember the b and v sounds are interchangeable), as indeed the garment was to cover the shameful nakedness.

In the last episode depicting our protagonists, we see them being sent ("expelled" in Hebrew) out of the Garden, but not without a hint of a hope. East of Eden, Elohim placed the Cherubim and the two-edged ("revolving") sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life (ref. 3:24). This image conjures up another - one in which Cherubim were also placed above a "sword", that is the sword of the Word (see Eph. 6:17; Heb. 3:12), in the form of the tablets written by Moshe (Moses). These tablets were placed in the ark, above which two Cherubim were instated. In other words, is this a subtle picture, inserted into the somber scene of the expulsion, of a future Holy of Holies where atonement (covering) was to be made? Once the Holy of Holies (through the ultimate atonement) became accessible to all, so did the way to the Tree of Life, through Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Finally, let us follow the genealogy of the forefathers as listed in chapter 5. The names form the following: Man (Adam) is appointed (Shet) mortal (Enosh) sorrow (Keinan). One who praises God (M’halal'el) will come down (Yared), teaching (Chanoch) that His death will send (Metushelach), the hidden king (Lemech, whose name contains the three letters for king, but not in the right order), and rest (No’ach).

(Regretfully the name of the person who had this is insight is unknown, and therefore cannot be given credit here.)

* YHVH is the Tetragrammaton, or the ineffable name of God, which is made up of fourconsonants, the pronunciation of which remains unknown despite different conjectures.

* B and V sound are denoted by the same letter - Bet
* The “ch” consonant sound is the same as the “ch” in the Scottish “Loch.”