Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Trumah - Sh’mot (Exodus) 25-27:19 with Hebrew Tools for Everyday Use

Parashat Trumah introduces us to several new terms and concepts that we have not encountered hitherto. "Truma," translated “contribution,” is derived from the root r.o.m  (resh, vav, mem) – meaning "high up, to lift up, to exalt." Having warranted such a term, this type of contribution was obviously held in high esteem by the Almighty. Furthermore, it also speaks of its Originator and His exalted position. The description of the potential “contributor” as a person whose "heart generously impels him," reinforces the significance of this offering. "Yidvenu" is the verb used here, meaning, to “cause one to be generous," stemming from the root n.d.v (noon, dalet, bet/vet), which is also: "willing, noble, volunteer, or freewill offering." Copious rain, for example, is "geshem n'davot" (Ps. 68:9). Other examples of the usage of this word are found in Hoshe’a (Hosea) 14:4 where YHVH declares: "I will love them [Yisrael] freely" (italics added), and in Shoftim (Judges) 5:9 D'vorah describes the lawgivers of Yisrael, as those who "freely offered themselves among the people" (italics added). This contribution, therefore, was to be given freely or generously (see 25:3-7), and was to include gold and silver (being undoubtedly the gifts the Egyptians gave to the Hebrew people). The articles of “trumah” were intended for the building of the “holy sanctuary - mikdash - for YHVH” (v. 8), so that He will "dwell among them" (v. 8; cf. Ezekiel 37:26-28; 43:9b).

The sanctuary in the desert is more often called "mishkan" (v. 9), meaning "a dwelling place." However, being its first time mention, it may have been necessary to clarify that this place was to be set apart and dedicated to the presence of YHVH, hence "mikdash."  “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them,” (“ve’sha’chanti,” hence “mishkan” – dwelling place). “The text does not say 'that I may dwell in its midst,' but 'among them,' to teach you that the Divine Presence does not rest on the sanctuary by virtue of the sanctuary, but by virtue of Israel, 'for they are the temple of the Lord.’” To these words by the Zedah La-derekh Commentary, we add another. In referring to the same text, Malbim comments: "He commanded that each individual should build him a sanctuary in the recesses of his heart, that he should prepare himself to be a dwelling place for the Lord and a stronghold for the excellence of His Presence, as well as an altar on which to offer up every portion of his soul to the Lord, until he gives himself for His glory at all times".[1]

The Almighty says of Himself in Yishayahu (Isaiah) 66:1: “The heaven is My throne and the earth My footstool - where is the house that you may build for me?" (cf. I Kings 8:27). This sanctuary, therefore, is a place where the “creature” could have a measure of access to its Creator and experience His love, justice and forgiveness. The sanctuary is a tangible place of meeting (ref. Ex. 25:22) for the sake of human beings who are confined to time and space.

The first article that is to be built is the "aron" (25:10). We have already encountered this term (which means a “chest,” or an “ark,” and a sarcophagus – i.e. a stone coffin) in B’resheet (Genesis) 50:26, where reference was made to Yoseph's embalming and burial. This wooden case, overlaid with gold, was to be the Ark of the Testimony (25:16), bearing witness to YHVH's word, covenant, atonement and forgiveness with and to the Israelites. Shlomo Ostrovski is of the opinion that in this unique and important article two very distinct and different characteristics come together, as the acacia wood from which the ark was made originated from the plant world, while the precious metal of overlaid gold was derived from an altogether different source. The latter’s use was intended to magnify this special article, and thereby “elevate its status.”[2] Thus the ‘lesser’ is transformed by virtue of the ‘covering’ by the ‘greater.’    

"You are to make a cover for the ark out of pure gold" (25:17). This "cover," translated in English “mercy seat,” is the familiar "kaporet" of the root k.f.r (from which stems "kippur" - "propitiation" and literally means “cover”). On this cover were to be placed two gold k'ruvim (cherubs). In the Assyrian language "kruv" (singular) is “to be gracious or to bless," with its adjective meaning "great or mighty." In Shmuel Bet (2nd Samuel) 22:11, we read that YHVH "rode on a k'ruv, and did fly, and was seen on the wings of the wind." Likewise, the k'ruvim were also placed as guards preventing entry to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24). Here on the other hand, their presence signifies accessibility to the Most High. It will be “from between the two cherubim” that YHVH will “meet” and “speak… about everything which [He] will give… in commandment…” (v. 22). The k'ruvim were to be situated in such a way that their faces – panim - would be turned toward each other (ref. 25:20). In verse 30 we read about "the table of showbread" being the table of "lechem hapanim," literally "bread of the face."

"Panim" stems from the root "pana" (p.n.h - pey, noon, hey), meaning "to turn." There are several other words (usually with an added preposition) connected to the same root, such as "in front of, before, toward, corner, attend to, undertake, take away and clear." "Panim," as are several other Hebrew words, always occurs in the plural form. Thus its very meaning and usage take into account the existence and presence of someone else, whom one is potentially facing (by turning one’s head). This is evident here by the description of the k'ruvim's position: “…and their faces [are turned] each toward its brother" (v. 20 literal translation). The "bread of the face" (v. 30) is a seemingly obscure term which requires an explanation. There are numerous instances where YHVH speaks of His Presence in terms of "panim" (although it may not be borne out by the English translations), as we saw for example in last week's Parasha, “…they shall not appear before Me [literally - My Face] empty-handed" (Ex. 23:15). The "bread of the face" therefore refers to YHVH's Presence which is turned toward His creatures, an image that clearly foreshadows the "Bread of Life" as epitomized in and by Yeshua.3

The way in which YHVH was to meet and speak between the cherubim remains the million and one dollar/euro (choose your currency) question. Our only clue are the respective meanings of the terms “kaporert,” “k’ruv/k’ruvim,” and “panim,” which point not to the physical dimension, but rather to the qualitative and spiritual aspect of this awesome “meeting.”

Following the descriptions of the Ark and the “Table of the Bread of the Presence," we now move on to the “lampstand - Menorah" (stemming from "nur - fire, light, shine," noon, vav, resh. 25:23-30). The Menorah’s components, quite curiously, are not merely functional. At least five of its elements seem to be directly connected to the botanical sphere: "calyxes, knobs, blossoms (or flowers), branches and almonds." These features are all part of the almond tree. Let us bear in mind that in the desert, where these instructions were given and where the Mishkan was to be set up, there was not an almond tree in sight! In other words, here, for the first time, we encounter elements characterizing the Land of Promise (the ultimate goal of the People’s present circumstances) as they are brought into the most important of edifices, YHVH's sanctuary. The Menorah is not the only article that points to the Land and to its characteristics. The others are also built right into the worship system and into the whole framework of the Israelites' relationship with YHVH (as we shall see in future Parashot/Parashas).

“The beautiful almond tree, whose white and pink blossoms are the first to emerge from winter dormancy, dominating the landscape of Israel at the end of the rainy season, passes very rapidly through several stages of growth.”4 What then is the connection of the Menorah to this plant? "Almond" in Hebrew is "sha'ked," related to the root sh.k.d (shin, kof, dalet), meaning "to watch, be diligent and insistent." In Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 1:11-12 we encounter the imagery of the almond tree as related to the above terms: "And the word of YHVH to me was, saying, Jeremiah, 'what do you see?' And I said, 'I see an almond rod'. Then YHVH said to me, 'You have seen well; for I will watch over My word to perform it.'” We learn from Mishley (Proverbs) 8:34 that, "happy" is the person who is "watching – “lishkod” - daily at My threshold." Hareuveni points out that it is likely that "the knobs and the flowers of the Menorah were patterned after the cups of the almond flower or after the embryonic almond fruit still crowned with the calyx of the flower." Thus, the Menorah was to be a reminder of YHVH's faithfulness and steadfastness, as demonstrated by the natural phenomena of the Land of Yisrael.

There is yet another tree which is connected to the Menorah, one whose oil was to feed it, and that is the olive tree. In Yisrael the sight of the newly blossoming almonds in spring, strewn in the olive groves, is a reminder that YHVH "watches over His word to perform it," especially to the proverbial ‘olive tree’ - Yisrael (see Jer. 11:16; Rom. 11:17, 24).

The edifice of the sanctuary was a tent, "ohel," with a primary meaning (in some of the ancient languages of the Middle East) of “to settle down and be inhabited, settlement, and city." This temporary and collapsible structure, which was essentially made of cloth, skins and wooden poles, and housed a number of articles that were made of a variety of materials for diverse purposes, illustrates a very central scriptural principle. Twice in the midst of instructions relating to the tent's several components we read, “and it shall be one - echad" (26:6,11). This demonstrates that it is the varied components that make up the "whole," or the "one," as well as "oneness" and "unity.”

Most times “echad” is used to denote simply a singular “one” (e.g. Gen. 42:13), but undoubtedly the most well known occurrence of this word is found in the “Sh’ma”: “Hear Oh Israel, YHVH our Elohim is one Elohim” (Deut. 6:4). This eternal injunction and tenet of faith actually points to a union of plurality, since the word “Elohim” is the plural form of “el.” Thus, “echad” is not just a singular “one,” as is verified by other expressions such as: “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24); “one people” (Gen. 11:6); “So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united together as one man” (Judges 20:11), and of course by our present example. However, “echad” also has a plural form: “achadim” found, for example, in Y’chezkel (Ezekiel) 37:17: “that they may become one (literally,“plural of one,” emphasis and italics added) in your hand,” speaking of the sticks of Yoseph and Yehudah. “Echad” also lends itself to “oneness,” as we see in Y’chezkel 21:16 (although, again, it may not show up in the English translation). However, the command there (addressing a sword): “hitachadi” – “unite yourself” - can also be read: “sharpen yourself.” This makes for a union between “one” (“ehcad”) and “sharpness” -“chad” - which is also a shortened form of “echad” (see Ez. 33:30), and indeed is the word for “one” in Aramaic. Finally, in creation the first day was pronounced not “first day”, but “one day” – yom echad (Gen. 1:5). In conclusion, true oneness is a pressed together, compacted union of many in one, portraying a sword-like sharpness (e.g. Zechariah 9:13). In the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) the ‘one who is made up of many’ is exemplified by the many-membered Body of Messiah. The concept of Echad well represents integration and inclusions (into oneness and wholeness; remember "shalem"?) typical of the Hebrew language and Hebraic thought.
 Adding to the oneness of the Mishkan is the description of joining the curtains and the loops (26:3,5,6). The word for “curtain” here is “y’ree’a,” and for “loop” - “loo’la’a,” both being in the feminine gender. In joining them “one to another” the Hebrew employs an anthropomorphism (personification) and reads: “a befriending (“joining” being of the root ch.v.r meaning to bind together and “friend”) of one woman (one curtain/one loop) to her sister (i.e. to another identical curtain/loop).” In this way, even the technical instructions for the construction of the Mishkan exemplify oneness and relationship.

The boards that were to make up the structure of the Mishkan had to be held together with “tenons” (26:17): “binding one to the other…” Here again in Hebrew it is: “one woman to her sister…” while the (silver) sockets (v. 19) being a masculine noun, are called “adanim,” stemming from the root a.d.n (alef, dalet, noon) which means “sustaining, providing a base.” It is from this root that the word “adon” – master – is derived and hence Adonai – the Sustainer and the One who has set up the foundations Who uphold everything. In verse 31 we encounter the veil that was to enclose the Kodesh Kodashim (“Holy of Holies”), called “parochet” – a divider, separator. Ironically, the Egyptians were described as “making the children of Israel serve with rigor” (Ex. 1:13 italics added), which is the translation for “perech” – labor that signified the discrimination that was inflicted upon them. Now they are told to make the “parochet” - an element in an edifice that they are to labor for, not as slaves, but as those who have been elected as a unique people in order to have a special relationship with the Adon/Master of the universe with whom they were to meet in this structure, which was to become the fruit of blessed labor.

Three times in this Parasha we read that Moshe is told to make the articles and the Mishkan, “according to that which you were shown on the mountain" (25:40; 26:30; 27:8). When and where was he shown "the pattern"? If we refer to the end of last week's Parasha we may find the answer: "And the glory of YHVH dwelt on the mountain of Sinai. And the cloud covered it six days. And He called to Moses on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud… And Moses came into the midst of the cloud" (24:16, 18). Thus, the 'where' and 'when' are answered, but what was Moshe actually shown? “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth. The actual making of the Tabernacle and its furnishings He entrusted to man. Its design or pattern God similarly made in six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses, and Moses was shown the design of the Tabernacle and its furnishings on the mount." The commentator further demonstrates this point by comparing B’resheet (Genesis) 2:1,2 to Sh’mot (Exodus) 39:32 - 40:33, revealing a similarity of terminology used in both accounts. Martin Buber, for example, discovered seven corresponding elements in key words, which are used in both accounts.5 Thus we may ask, does the pattern of the "Mishkan" in some microcosmic way reflect YHVH's creation, and if so, how?

This question will be answered partly in Parashat F’kudey, but also in our present Parasha there are some notable parallels:
Above were mentioned examples of the usage of “echad” (as we saw above) , hile in B’resheet 1:5 it says: “Elohim called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the (literally) one [echad] day.”
B’resheet 1:7 - “Elohim made (va’ya’as) the firmament…”
Sh’mot 25:8 - “And let them make (ve’a’su) Me a sanctuary.”
B’resheet 1:16 - “Then Elohim made (va’ya’s) two great lights…”
Sh’mot 25:10 - “And they shall make (ve’a’su) an ark.”
B’resheet 1:25 - “And Elohim made (va’ya’s) the beast of the earth…”
Sh’mot  25:23  - “You shall also make (ve’a’sita) a table.”

Additionally, as mentioned above, at the end of last week’s Parasha (Mishpatim) we read:  “Now the glory of YHVH rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (Ex. 24:16 italics added). In parallel it says in Sh’mot 20:11: “For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (italics added).

1 New Studies in Shmot Part 2, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman.
   Eliner  Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora.
   Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

2 Moses on the Witness Stand, Shlomo Ostrovski, Keren Ahava Meshichit,      
  Jerusalem, 1976,  1999

3 See blogspots for 2 related articles

4 Nature in Our Biblical Heritage, Nogah Hareuveni, trans. Helen Frenkley, Neot
   Kdumim  Ltd. Lod, Israel, 1996

5 New Studies in Shmot Part 2, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman.
   Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora.
   Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Most of the word definitions were extracted from: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown Hendrickson. Publishers, Peabody, Mass. 1979.

Hebrew Tools for Everyday Use

This time we will utilize the Mishkan’s components and apply them to everyday speech.  The term for “generous contributions” has not changed in Modern Hebrew. And as we saw, from the root used in “socket” we also derived Adon and Adonai. In contemporary usage “adon” is also a “gentleman” (“adonim” - gentlemen) or one of the words for “mister”.  “Panim” – face – shares its root with “p’nim” – interior – and with “bifneem” – “inside”, while the words describing the furniture inside the Mishkan, such as the ark and lampstand are used in every day speech, respectively, as “closet/cabinet” and “light fixture” or “lamp”.  From the root of Mishkan- – we get “shachen” - neighbor. 

The generous gentlemen contribute to the Temple
(literally, the gentlemen the generous…)
Ha’a’donim ha’ne’divim tormim la’Mikdash

The generous gentleman contributes to the Temple
Ha’adon ha’nadiv torem la’Mikdash

Inside there are a cabinet and a lamp
Bi’fneem yesh aron u’menorah

One neighbor (male)
Shachen e’chad
One neighbor (female)
Sh’chena achat

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Ki Tavo – D’varim (Deuteronomy) 26 – 29:9 with Hebrew Tools for Everyday Use

 When you have comeki tavo – into the land…” informs us that “living in Israel is the assumption behind the Torah itself,” to quote Nehemiah Gordon. And whereas last week’s Parasha raised the issue of the firstborn son, this week the Parasha deals extensively with first fruit (both of which belong to YHVH, ref. Ex. 13:2; 22:29; 23:19, Num. 18:13). Rendering to YHVH the first fruit that belong to Him can be done only in the land of Yisrael. The triune bond of the Heavenly Father, His people, and the land is expressed here in a most poignant way. “And it shall be, when you have come into the land which YHVH your Elohim is giving to you as an inheritance, and you have possessed it, and live in it; then you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground which you shall bring in from your land which YHVH your Elohim is giving to you, and shall put it in a basket, and shall go to the place which YHVH your Elohim shall choose to cause His name to dwell there” (Deut. 26:1,2 italics added). Once the Israelite person is well established in the land that YHVH has caused him to inherit, and once that land yields its produce that same Israelite is to render back to YHVH the first fruit of the produce, while doing so only in the place and in the manner prescribed by Him.

“And the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and place it before the altar of YHVH your Elohim. And you shall speak and say before YHVH your Elohim…” (26: 4). Now the Israelite is bidden to recount before YHVH some of the history of his people (v. 5ff), which of course highlights YHVH’s indispensable role, generating thanksgiving in the said Israelite worshipper, as well as a greater sense of oneness with his ancestors and with the future generations. And so (as we have noticed in many other instances), place, time and people all come together under the sovereign rule of YHVH.

However, the declaration: “… And you shall place it before YHVH your Elohim, and bow yourself before YHVH your Elohim” (26:2), along with the presentation of the fruit in the basket, does not end this particular activity. In verse 11 we read: “… and rejoice in all the good which YHVH your Elohim has given to you, and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the alien who is in your midst,” immediately leading to: “When you have made an end of tithing all the tithes of your increase the third year, the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow, that they may eat inside your gates, and be filled…” (v.12).

In Parashot R’eh and Shoftim (2 and 3 weeks ago, respectively, and before that in Parashat Mishpatim Ex. 21-24) we encountered the root (bet, ayin, resh), used in reference to YHVH’s burning anger, and also in regards to removing any and all impurities from Yisrael’s camp, hence meaning, to “burn, purge or consume” (in Mishpatim we examined this root closely, finding several more meanings not mentioned here). Last week’s Parashat Ki Te’tzeh also cited several times this term in regards to sexual impurity (22:13-24), with one more reference to kidnapping (24:7).  Here this term is used once more, but surprisingly in a very different context: “When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year -- the year of tithing -- and have given to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before YHVH your Elohim: 'I have removed the holy tithe from my house… I have not eaten any of it when in mourning...‘” (Deuteronomy 26:12-13, 14 italics added).  In Hebrew both “I removed” and “I have [not] eaten” are rendered as “bi’ar’ti.” This further emphasizes the potential for YHVH’s burning anger if one were not to fulfill the above-mentioned requirement of rendering that which is set-apart (kadosh) for those to whom it is due (i.e. the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow).  

Thus the individual Israelite, who is responsible before his Elohim for handing over the initial yield of his land, for thanking Elohim and rejoicing before Him, is at the same time also to encompass the needy ones within his gates, since doing so is as good as “lending to YHVH” Himself (ref. Prov.19:17).

The afore-mentioned address made to the Israelites (in chapter 26) is in second person singular, which constitutes, as noted before, a means to underscore the individual responsibility to be borne by each person (as well as the oneness of the people – one and all). The confession, however, that the Israelite worshiper is to make is in first person plural, denoting the collective national identity in relationship to YHVH (vs. 6-9). In verse 10 there is an immediate change, again to first person, as the focus shifts back to the individual’s responsibility and relationship with his Elohim. Verses 17-19 sum up the ‘transaction’ which will take place: “You have today declared YHVH to be your Elohim, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes and His commands, and His judgments, and to pay attention to His voice. And YHVH has declared you today to be His people, a special treasure as He has spoken to you, and to keep all His commands. And He will make you high above all nations that He has made, in praise, and in name, and in glory; and that you may be a holy people to YHVH your Elohim, as He has spoken” (italics added). The verb “declared” in both instances is “he’emir,” of the root a.m.r (alef, mem, resh), meaning to “say, utter, declare, speak.” However, because “he’emir” is an unusual conjugation, rather than the regular “amar,” some translate it “elevate,” from the root word “a’mir,” which is “top or summit” (for example, “uppermost branch” in Isaiah 17:6). The wilderness journey had seen many incidents of rebellion, as Moshe states in Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 9:24: “You have been rebels against YHVH from the day that I knew you.” There, as in many of the other references to the Israelites’ rebelliousness, the word used is “mam’rim,” of the root m.r.h. This sad fact, which is stated in alliteration form in Tehilim (Psalms) 107:11: “They defied Elohim’s words” – “himru ee’mrey El,” finds its ‘remedy’ (tikkun) in the present term - “he’emiru” -  that is in the definitive action of the Israelites “saying and declaring” YHVH’s “elevating” words, deeds and goodness toward them.

The rest of the Parasha is mostly devoted to the blessings and the curses (chapter 28). Even the undertaking in the future, of writing the Torah on “large stones” after crossing the Yarden and reading it to the people, is intended to illustrate vividly the extant dichotomy of “blessings” and “curses,” as this event was to take place between the “Mountain of Blessing” and the “Mountain of Curse.”  And, as if to make sure that the people will understand the simple equation of ‘obedience equals blessings - rebellion equals curses,’ it says: “And you shall write on the stones all the words of the law very plainly” (27:8). “Very plainly” is “ba’er heytev,” and while we have already examined once the verb “ba’er” (and its connection to “be’er,” “well” – in Deut. Ch. 1), here we encounter the additional “heytev,” of the root “tov” - well, good, pleasant.” “Ba’er hey’tev,” then, is plainly “do a good job of explaining and making the meaning clear and simple.”

Moving now to the blessings versus the curses, we take a look at 28:1 (regarding the blessings) and at verse 15 (the opening verse of the passage enumerating the curses) and read the following commentary: “Particularly remarkable is the difference between the emphatic double phrase of obedience used in the positive passage: ‘If thou shalt diligently hearken (shamo’a tishma)’ and the bare: ‘if thou shalt not hearken’ in the negative one. … Rashi, following Talmudic exegesis interprets the idiomatic doubling of the verb in a conditional sense: ‘And it shall be,’ im shamoa, ‘if thou shalt hearken,’ tishma, ‘then thou shalt continue to hearken.’ Though grammatically this is not the implication of the verb doubling, it nevertheless expresses a deep psychological truth that once man has started on the right path, his progress becomes easier, gathering momentum with each fresh good deed. Maimonides also observed: ‘The more man is drawn after the paths of wisdom and justice, the more he longs for them and desires them’”. [2]

The blessings and the curses are set side by side in chapter 28, and are parallel in content. But whereas it takes 14 verses to spell out the blessings, it takes almost four times that to go through all the curses. It appears that both blessings and curses are all-encompassing. Being blessed, one is blessed everywhere one goes or happens to be, and likewise when one is cursed. The blessings and the curses are therefore all-pervasive. The more the blessings sound pleasant and appealing, the more horrendous and appalling are the curses, and using some of the same words in both underscores this fact all the more. The word fruit, for example, is used this way. In 28:4 and 11 we read: “The fruit of your body shall be blessed, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, the offspring of your oxen, and the young ones of your flock. (italics added).” “And YHVH shall prosper you in goods, and in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land which YHVH swore to your fathers to give it to you” (italics added). In the next section we read about a fierce nation, which “shall eat the fruit of your livestock, and the fruit of your land, until you are destroyed” (v. 51, italics added. In the English translation “increase” and “produce” replace “fruit”). But what renders “fruit” and its usage much more macabre is verse 53: “And you shall eat the fruit of your body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom YHVH your Elohim has given to you… “ (italics added).

Let us review several other similar examples (where the same term or root is used in widely differing contexts, highlighting the severity of the message). In 28:11 it says: “And YHVH will grant you plenty of goods…” (emphasis added), which is “ve’hotircha” from the root y.t.r  -“that which surpasses” and is therefore a “surplus.” But y.t.r (yod, tav, resh) is also the root for “that which remains.” And so in 28:54 the root y.t.r is employed once more, though with a very different message: “The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest – “yeter” - of his children whom he leaves behind – “yotir” - so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat…” (emphasis added). These words, aside from highlighting the horrid situation, especially as juxtaposed against the blessings of y.t.r., also echo the same morbidity which characterized the passage we just read above (having had to do with “fruitfulness”). Avod” - “work, labor, worship, serve” is another term which is used in this manner. “Because you did not serve/worship YHVH your Elohim with joyfulness and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, you shall serve your enemies whom YHVH shall send on you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in lack of all things. And he shall put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you” (vs. 47-48 italics added). Verse 64 takes us even further: “And YHVH shall scatter you among all people, from one end of the earth even to the other, and you shall serve [of the root a.v.d again] other gods there, wood and stone, which you have not known, nor your fathers” (italics added).

Becoming “a proverb and a byword – ma’shal u’shneena - among all the peoples” (28:37) is another outcome of not heeding YHVH’s voice, as opposed to “all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of YHVH, and they shall fear you” (v. 10). In Parashat Chayey Sarah (Gen. 23-25:18, in reference to 24:2), we examined the noun “ma’shal” extensively. We found that one of the verbs for “to rule” – mashol – shares its root ( with words such as “proverb, parable and example.” Thus, a ruler who represents his higher authority, as he is meant to do in YHVH’s kingdom, becomes a fit example of the latter. Here Yisrael is warned against misrepresenting YHVH and becoming an object lesson exemplifying what happens to those who betray trust. In Yoel (Joel) 2:17 the prophet laments: “And do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule (“lim’shol”) over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their Elohim?'"

The second term used in the above “proverb and byword” - “sh’neena” - stems from the root sh.n.n. (shin, noon, noon) and means to “sharpen, whet,” and by implication “repeat.” Thus, if Yisrael should set a negative example, that fact will be told repeatedly, over and over and in every place. However, if they obey the word, “vesheenantam… “teach repeatedly” YHVH’s Word to their children (Deut. 6:7), not only will they not become a “sh’neena” -  “a byword”- among the nations, rather  they will be at the “head” of all the nations (ref. 28:13).

The last phase of the fulfillment of the curses is a scattering among the nations. This entails unbearable conditions: “And among these nations you shall find no ease, nor shall the sole of your foot have rest – ma’no’ach…” (28:65). In Parashat No’ach we read: “The dove was sent to see if the water had abated and, found no resting place – again ma’no’ach - for the sole of her foot….” (Gen. 8:8-9). But the suffering, anguish and dread only continue: “And your life shall hang in doubt before you, and you shall fear day and night, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, Oh that it were evening! And in the evening you shall say, Oh that it were morning! For the fear of your heart with which you fear, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see” (28:66-67). Indeed, one Holocaust survivor chose to name the book he wrote about his experiences, Oh That It Were Evening. “Evening” as we noted several times already is “erev” of the root e.r.v (ayin, resh, bet/vet), with its numerous derivations such as, mix, pleasant, raven and guarantee (at the end of the day “erev” is a guarantee of the coming morning). In the present case, the Guarantor of the ‘coming day’ is involved in the circumstances of those to whom He has pledged His guarantee. Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) chapter 30, for example, contains tremendous (and guaranteed) promises to Yisrael. In verse 21 we read the following: “Their leader [“moshel” which we just encountered above] shall be one of them and their ruler shall come forth from their midst [remember Parashat Shoftim and the leader who was to be raised from “among their brethren”?]. And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?”. “Dare to risk (his life)” is once again from the same familiar e.r.v - “a’ra’v.” The answer to the question is quite clear, as no one else but Elohim’s Son could risk His life, as indeed He has, by “sacrificing” (which is identical to “approach” above) Himself!

Finally (in 28:68), “And YHVH shall bring you into Egypt again with ships, by the way of which I said to you, ‘you shall never see it again’” (see Exodus 14:13).  The mention of ships is rather curious here, as it would not have been the normal passageway from Yisrael to Egypt. This imagery may be pointing to the sea which the Children of Yisrael crossed miraculously when coming out of their land of bondage. Returning to that same place would be very different from the supernatural and miraculous means they had once experienced; this time it would be more like “crossing the sea of distress” (ref. Zech. 10:11). There, in Egypt (literally and proverbially), the place where the Israelites had experienced deliverance from slavery, they will once again be in bondage. Should this happen, they will sell themselves as slaves, the word being “hit’makar’tem” from the root (mem, kaf/chaf, resh), which is a very unusual form of “to sell,” meaning “becoming sold by selling oneself.” However, while willing to sell themselves to slavery, “there shall be no buyer” (v. 68)!

Verses 1-9 of chapter 29, which form the epilogue of our Parasha, serve to remind the Israelites, once again, of the miracles that they had experienced in this Egypt, which just a moment ago was presented before them as a potential place of untold future sufferings. They are called to remember in the future the extent of YHVH’s past goodness toward them and His great mercy, love and power; a remembrance which will be essential for their conduct and wellbeing, hence the exhortation: “Pay attention to the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may act wisely in all that you do”! (29:9)

[1] Karaite Korner
[2] New Studies in Devarim, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman, Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora, Hemed books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hebrew Tools for Everyday Use

Our Hebrew Tools this week will not echo the Parasha’s extremely sober tone. Rather, we will look at some of the words we encountered above, but in their most simple and common form, which should be useful. The verb for selling (masculine gender) – mocher – in Hebrew is identical to the noun for “seller” or “vendor” (masculine), which is also “mocher” (this is also true for the feminine gender, “mocheret”). Also notice that in Hebrew the verb for ‘to love’ is used in instances where in English “like” would be used instead.  The verb for “like” is “me’cha’bev” (infinite form - “le’cha’bev), but can only be used in relationship to people and not to anything or anyone else.

Good Morning
Boker Tov (lit. morning good)

Good Evening
Erev Tov (lit. evening good)

What do you (masculine) sell? I sell good things
Ma ata mocher? Ani mocher dvarim tovim (lit. things good)

What do you (feminine) sell?
Ma at mocheret?

In the morning the vendor hears better
Ba’boker ha’mocher sho’me’ah tov yoter

I like (masculine) the morning
Ani ohev et ha’boker

I like (feminine) the evening
Ani ohevet et ha’erev