The root גבח appears in all of Scripture only in פרשת תזריע, in Chap. 13 of Leviticus. It appears here in two different contexts, “Leprosy” (צרעת) of Man and that manifesting itself on clothing. Regarding that of man we find: Leviticus 13:40-41 – If a man loses the hair on [the back of] his head, he is קרח (bald). He is clean. And if he loses his hair on the side toward his face, he is גבח (bald at the front). He is clean. Regarding that of clothing, Scripture states: Ibid. 47, 55 – [And as for] the garment that has the lesion of צרעת tzara’ath upon it… You shall burn it in fire. It is a penetrating lesion on the worn or new [article].


One might have reasonably supposed that, despite the different circumstances of the verses (man, garment), the word גבח itself would maintain a single meaning. But, Onkelus (reflected in the English translation quoted here) renders the word differently for each situation. Regarding tzara’ath of Man, the root גליש is used (we will be examining the meaning of גליש). But for that of an article of clothing, he uses the term חדתותיה (newness).


Regarding human tzara’ath, Rashi (13:41) stresses the baldness of the head called גבח is located in the front of the head. In contrast, no allusion to “front” or “back” is mentioned concerning garments; only that קרח means a worn item and גבח denotes a new one. Rashi explains the disparity: Rashi (13:55) – concerning the explanation and translation [of these terms], the simple meaning is that קרח means “old” and גבח means “new.” It is as though it were written, “[It is a lesion on] its end or its beginning,” for קרח means “back” [i.e., at the end of the garment’s life, when it is old,] and גבח means “front” [i.e., the beginning of its life, when it is new]. This is just as is written, “And if [he loses hair] at the front of his head, [he is bald at the front גבח]” (verse 41). And גבח refers from the crown toward his back. In other words, the Torah used the words גבח and קרח as analogues of their main meanings, already defined in the context of tzara’ath of Man – back and front. Rashi adds the reason the Torah uses these words specifically here: and because of the midrashic explanation, that this language is necessary for a Halachic exposition here [גזירה שוה, a link between two seemingly unrelated passages through common terms, thereby inferring the laws of one passage from the laws of the other, as follows]: How do we know that if a lesion on a garment spreads [throughout the entire garment], it is clean? Because [Scripture] states גבח and קרח in the context of [lesions that appear on] man (verse 42), and here, in the context of [lesion on] garments, [Scripture] also states גבח and קרח; just as there [in the case of lesions on man], if it spread over the entire body, he is clean (verses 1213), so too, here, [in the case of lesion on garments,] if it spread over the entire garment, it is clean (San. 88a), Scripture adopts the [unusual] expressions גבח and קרח.


Aside from these occurrences in Lev. 13, the root גבח is found only in the Talmud (Chullin 65b), in a discussion of kosher grasshoppers[1]. Rashi explains the word גבחת here in accordance with its meaning in Lev. 13, namely baldness[2]. In contrast, he great medieval Aramaic lexicographer, the Aruch, holds the Talmudic usage denotes elevation, i.e. that it refers to a bulge on the insect’s back, analogous to a camel’s hump[3]. Some link גבחת in the context of garments to elevation as well, due to the closeness of the root גבח to גבה (height)[4].


In analyzing this dispute between Rashi (baldness) and the Aruch (hump), we mention once more that since the root גבח appears only in Lev. 13 in all Scripture, it stands to reason that the Talmudic usage should derive from the Scriptural meaning. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that the Talmudic meaning is based on tzara’ath of Man, since (as per Rashi above) the meanings of גבח and קרח in the context of garments are only analogues of the primary meanings, namely their usage relating to tzara’ath of Man. It is curious though that regarding tzara’ath of Man we found two main attributes: baldness and the front/back “slope” of the skull. Why does Rashi in the Talmud omit the front/back aspect; and why does the Aruch omit the baldness attribute?


A clue to Rashi’s reasoning may be found in his commentary on Song of Songs: Song 4:1 – your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead.  Rashi – that streamed Heb. שגלשו, that they became bald. גבח is rendered by the Targum as גלוש. When the animals descend from the mountain, the mountain becomes bald and bare of them. Rashi usages no less than three synonyms in explaining the word גלשו, namely: ‘קרח’, ‘גבח’ ‘מרט’, unequivocally underscoring that the meaning is “baldness” (of hair, or in this case, of sheep) – all based on the rendering of גבח as גלוש.


I would suggest that the dispute between Rashi and the Aruch arises from differing interpretations of the Midrash in this verse: Song Rabba 4:3 – your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead… this means, the mountain from which I tore away I made a standing witness (gal’ed) to the other nations. And what was this? The Red Sea. R. Joshua of Siknin said in the name of R. Levi: It means, the mountain from which you streamed away. When a woman’s hair grows thick she thins it (galshin). Etz Yosef comments that means she shaves/cuts her hair. I suggest that this is the source of Rashi’s interpretation that גלישה means thinning, shaving, leaving bare.


The Aruch, on the other hand interprets this Midrash differently, explaining גלשין גלשין as meaning that she braids or ties her hair, the better to manage it. Now, in order to braid or tie hair, it must be gathered together, quite different from shaving and cutting. The Aruch therefore appears to understand גלישה regarding hair as analogous to gathering stones in order to create a mound or monument. And this is precisely the interpretation of the Targum found to this verse, cited by the Aruch elsewhere[5], which homiletically interprets the verse as referring to the sons[6] of Jacob establishing a mound/monument. This would then explain the Aruch’s reading of גלישה as a mound/elevation, from which derives the interpretation of the grasshopper’s גבחת to mean an elevation on its back. Again, all connects back to Onkelus’ rendering of גבח as גלוש.


One may further suggest that Rashi and the Aruch differ on the interpretation of the beginning of the above-cited Midrash as well: goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead… this means, the mountain from which I tore away I made a standing witness (gal’ed) to the other nations. And what was this? The Red Sea. According to the Aruch (mound), what would be the connection to the Red Sea? Perhaps for this reason Rashi interprets Rabbi Levi’s גל as an expression of [7]גילוי (baring, stripping), i.e. baring the seabed for the benefit of the Israelites – a truly eternal testimony/”monument” to G-d’s power. The Aruch, on the other hand could counter that the common usage of גל (pile, mound) is very relevant in relation to the Red Sea as well, as Scripture states in that connection: And with the breath of Your nostrils the waters were heaped up; the running water stood erect like a wall (Ex. 15:8). The waves (גלים) were thus piled up, not unlike a mound of rocks!


These two disparate meanings of גל are actually two sides of the same coin. For instance, in the act of rolling a protective bolder from the mouth of a well, one reveals the underlying spring. However, the bolder continues to occupy space wherever it is moved to, thereby covering another position. Thus, one action actually results in two opposite consequences.


The two interpretations of גלישה may be understood in a like fashion. In Rabbi Yehoshua’s version of Rabbi Levi’s metaphor, in the course of the woman’s haircut the discarded hair inevitably will occupy space elsewhere, which she is generally not interested in preserving[8]. Similarly, the essence of the event of the Red Sea is indisputably the resulting dry bed, not the incidental mounds of waves. Thus, according to Rashi, the “standing witness” of the event was the bared (גלוי) seabed.


We can now understand too why Rashi emphasizes the aspect of baldness in the context of the גבחת of the grasshopper in Chullin, in contrast to those who emphasize the element of an elevated mound. Since גלישה in the book of Song means shaved/denuded/bared and גלוש is the Targum of גבח in Leviticus, perforce the Sages’ usage of the term in relation to the grasshopper must be referring to this primary meaning.













[1] [הגמרא מציינת את סימן הגבחת, אבל סימן זה מובאת רק לצורך הבחנה בין מין למין, ולא שהיא מהווה סימן טהרה לעצמה, שהרי יש כשרים עם גבחת וכשרים בלי גבחת, כך פרש”י]: חולין סה: – ואין לי אלא הבא ואין לו גבחת… אתה דן בנין אב משלשתן: לא ראי ארבה כראי חרגול; רשי – הרי אתה דן כו’ לא ראי כו’ – שיש בזה מה שאין בזה ועל כרחך אין סימני הטהרה תלוי בזנב ובגבחת לא ביש לו ולא באין לו שהרי יש כאן אין לו וכשר, ויש לו וכשר.

[2] [וכשיטתו]: רבינו גרשום חולין סה: – מאי גבחת שממורט בפניו. מאירי (שם): כל שיש לו גבחת ר”ל שראשן מרוט.

[3] [וכן]: רבינו גרשום חולין סה: – [“כתוב בגליון”] פירוש גבחת גבהות בשדרה שלו כעין גמל. האשכול (סימני בהמה, סכג): וחגבים… בין יש לו גבחת כעין גמל ובין אין לו.

[4] אוצר טוב (מכי – תוס’ ריד), דף 16: בקרחתו היינו בגד ישן… קרח בנפול שערו. ובגבחתו היינו גבהותו, שח’ וה’ מתחלפין, והוא בעת שמגביה שער ואז הוא חדש עדיין. [ולכך הסכימו גם פרשנים אחרים]: תוי”ט נגע’ יא:יא – וגבחתו אלו חדשים. שהמוכין עדיין גבוהים עליהם ויהי’ בגבחתו כאילו כתיב בגבהתו. קרבן אהרן (תזריע – פ’ נגע’ ה:טו): בגבחתו כאילו כתיב בגבהתו בה’, ירצה בגובהתו, שעדיין המוכין הגבוהים… בחדשים. מזרחי ויקיג:נה – ו’בגבחתו’ משמע… חדש, שהמוכין גבוהין… כאלו אמר: בגבהתו, דח’ וה’ מתחלפין, זהו מה שפ’ קצת מפר’; [וע’ מלבי”ם (תזריע ס’ קמה), מעשה רקח לרמב”ם טומאת צרעת יב:ט].

[5] ערוך (ערך ‘גבשוש’ –תד): תל קטן של עפר… שֶׁגָּלְשׁוּ מֵהַר גִּלְעָד (שה”ש ד:א) תרגם: כבנוי דיעקב דלקטו אבנין ועבדו גבשושיתא ס”א גלשושיתא בטורא דגלעד.

[6] [כך פרש”י]: בר’ לא:מו-מז – וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְאֶחָיו לִקְטוּ אֲבָנִים… וַיַּעֲשׂוּ גָל… וְיַעֲקֹב קָרָא לוֹ גַּלְעֵד. רשי: אחיו – הם בניו.

[7] [כדוגמת]: גַּל עֵינַי וְאַבִּיטָה (תה’ קיט:יח).

[8] [ומי שעיקר חפצו דווקא בשיער המתגלח יתדמה לכאורה לחופר בור ואינו צריך אלא לעפרה שהיא מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה ובכך פטור מדאורייתא בשבת].

Yehoshua Steinberg Complacency is tantamount to complicity; Serenity is prerequisite to accomplishment.

Yehoshua (Jeremy) Steinberg