THE ART OF DEFINITION AND PERSPECTIVE
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THE ART OF DEFINITION AND PERSPECTIVE
Different than any other language, Lashon Hakodesh is not a language of words that were just agreed upon by a group of people. Tree means tree, not for any reason, other than that the people agreed upon it. In Hebrew, the word, the root, has meaning. עץ means tree, as the letters Ayin and Tzaddik look like trees. A שור is an ox, as the Resh looks like the back leg and tail, while the Shin looks like the horns of the ox.
I just bought from my friend, neighbor and mentor, his Sefer on the meaning behind Hebrew words, and the roots of words. Eldad Nakar, the author of the Sefer on body language עצמותי תאמרנה also put out a book on Hebrew root words and how they are connected, called נוקב מרגליות. There is a book based off the teachings of R Shimshon Refael Hirsh on this topic as well, the Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew.
For example, one of the sad things about the lack of knowledge of the Hebrew language, is that there are many ultra-orthodox who don’t know the meaning of words they say. They read the words of Shema three times a day and still do not how to define, דְגָנֶ֔ךָ וְתִֽירֹשְׁךָ֖ וְיִצְהָרֶֽךָ. Your grain, and your wine, and your oil. The word Tirosh, means wine, because it shares the same root with the word רש which means poor, and ירש which means inherit. When someone dies, he becomes poor, as all of what he has, goes to his inheritors. Wine addiction can cause someone to be poor. יצהר means oil, as it has the same root of the word צהר which means source of light, mentioned in Parashat Noach, as the light in the Teva. לחם lechem, is the same root of מלחמה , war, because if you are not in competition, you are generally not in business.
There is a word in this week’s parasha, שבתון. וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֗ם ה֚וּא אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּ֣ר יְקֹוָ֔ק שַׁבָּת֧וֹן שַׁבַּת־קֹ֛דֶשׁ לַֽיקֹוָ֖ק מָחָ֑ר The word Shabbaton, seems that it is not that different than the word Shabbat. Why then the change? I did not think much of it, until when I was helping someone master Lashon Hakodesh, and they noticed it in the Parashat Haman. I looked it up, and there were many commentaries on this one word! Rabbenu Bachye says, that there is Shabbat down here, and Shabbat up in Heaven. The Baal Haturim writes, that this is about adding time to Shabbat, before and after it. R’ Shimshon R Hirsch says, that Shabbat is about holding things in place, similar to the word שפת , putting a stop and a boundary, for the sake of reflection on the work that is done. Shabbaton is the experience of that reflection.
There is a word that is probably the most confusing word in Hebrew for the youth. The word is אסור. Forbidden. The word Assur also means jail. There are 365 forbidden things, that make the youth feel in jail, or restricted. But the truth is, there is another way to look at the word Assur.
In this week’s Parasha, we see that the word is used when saddling a horse. וַיֶּאְסֹ֖ר אֶת־רִכְבּ֑וֹAnd Pharoah saddled his horse… You see, each person is made up of two parts, a person is a combination of the spiritual and the animalistic. When something is Assur, it just means it is saddling the animalistic part of you. It is keeping you in track, on the journey of life according to Judaism, which ends in Olam Haba. You might feel like the prohibition is choking you, if you perceive yourself and identity yourself, with the animalistic part of you. But if you identify with the soul, and the animalistic part of you is just a tool for physical survival, then the prohibition is to clarify that you are not an animal, but you are created in the Image of G-d, living life with a purpose that transcends life itself.
The word מותר, Muttar, permitted, shares the same root as the word לתור, to tour, search or stray. וְלֹֽא־תָת֜וּרוּ אַחֲרֵ֤י לְבַבְכֶם֙ וְאַחֲרֵ֣י עֵֽינֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֥ם זֹנִ֖ים אַחֲרֵיהֶֽם When something is permitted, a person gets busy with looking outward, not inward. Why are things that are permitted, things that cause people to stray? Because when a person indulges in what is allowed, he eventually transgresses what he is not allowed. קדש עצמך במותר לך. Make yourself holy, in those things that are permitted for you. (Yevamot 20a) Just because it is permitted, you still can’t overindulge. The first letters of קדש עצמך מותר לך are the same letters of עמלק. Because when you can’t tame the beast, you become the beast.
When the Jews questioned if G-d is amongst them, this brought about Amalek. הֲיֵ֧שׁ יְקֹוָ֛ק בְּקִרְבֵּ֖נוּ אִם־אָֽיִן. וַיָּבֹ֖א עֲמָלֵ֑ק וַיִּלָּ֥חֶם עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בִּרְפִידִֽם Why does Amalek come as a punishment when we question if G-d is amongst us? Because Amalek believes, that we don’t have G-d in us! That we are all a bunch of Apes! A bunch of horses! Amalek would cut the Milah of the Jews, and throw it up in the sky, telling G-d, Take who you have chosen! (Eicha R. 3) Why does it bother Amalek so much, that we have a Brit Milah? Because מילה stands for מִ֣י יַעֲלֶה־לָּ֤נוּ הַשָּׁמַ֙יְמָה֙ Who will take us up to Heaven? (See Tikunei Zohar 70, 131a) Because Amalek believes that a person in a body, is just a body, and is not at all Heavenly.
The Milah is the covenant with G-d, of restraint of physical desires. The restraint of the animalistic, is what allows the soul to express itself, and what allows us to climb to the highest Heaven.
A life without rules and regulations, is like playing soccer on a roof without walls. There is no purpose in the game of life, if there is no structure. With no rules, we are just animals, who roam with no purpose.
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