Parshas נֹחַ

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Aspect of the Divine

חֹל: to profane

חוּלִין: profane

חִלוֹנִי: secular

חֵיל: wall, soldier, valor, tremble

חוֹל: sand

חוֹלֶה: sick

חַלַל: hollow, חוֹל: weekday

חַס וְחָלִילָה: G-d forbid

חַלוֹן: window

הַתְחָלָה: beginning

חַל: to take effect

יִחוּל: hope, wish

חַלָה: challah

מָחוֹל: tamborine

חֹל: To Profane

וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּטַּע כָּרֶם
And he defiled himself, Noach, man of the earth, and he planted a vineyard.

חוּליִן: Profane

The Midrash translates the words וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ to mean חוּלִין — that Noach profaned himself by planting a vineyard whose wine caused him to get drunk, וַיִּתְגַּל בְּתוֹךְ אָהֳלֹה/and he became exposed inside his tent. חוּלִין by definition is the opposite of קְדוּשָׁה/holiness.

חִלוֹנִי: Secular

Targum Yonasan mentions two types of חִלוֹנִי: one in relation to a נָכְרִי/goy, and one for a זָר/an estranged Jew. Even though both estranged Jew and non-Jew are similar in their outlook toward life, namely a life without kedushah, they are, however, inherently different. The חִילוֹנַאי Jew has a different spelling where, besides the aleph, there is more significantly a yud in between the ches and the lamed. The yud signifies the pintela Yid, the spark of Divine inside every Jew. No matter how far a Jew is estranged from his brothers, he still has a holy spark that separates him from a goy.

חֵיל: Wall, Soldier, Valor, Tremble

Similarly, when the letters ches and lamed contain a yud, the spark of the Divine, it represents strength, hence the words חַיָילִים/soldiers, אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל/men of valor, and trembling in the presence of such strength.

בְּחֵילֵךְ שַׁלְוָה בְּאַרְמְנוֹתָיִךְ יְהִי שָׁלוֹם
There should be peace in your ramparts, tranquillity in your palace.

Here חֵיל is not just an ordinary wall, but a fortified wall, a wall that surrounds a palace, a place of importance. The wall surrounding the Beis HaMikdash is also known as the חֵיל — again, not just an ordinary wall, but a wall surrounding kedushah.

חוֹל: Sand

When there is no yud between the ches and the lamed, we are left with חֹל or חוֹל. When there is no spark of the Divine, there is no potential for life, hence there is no life on the beach — and for that matter, life is not a beach!

חוֹלֶה: Sick

A חוֹלֶה/sick person is to some extent lacking an aspect of life. מַחַלָה/sickness and מְחִילָה/forgiveness are connected in that through יִסוּרִין/the pain of sickness, the חוֹלֶה is drawn closer to Hashem and is forgiven for his sins, thereby regaining the aspect of yud, from מַחַלָה to מְחִילָה.

ג’ מוֹחָלִין לָהֶם עַל כָּל עַוֹנוֹתֵיהֶם, חוֹלֶה שֶׁנִתְרַפֶּא,חָתָן וּמֶלֶךְ
Three are forgiven for all their sins: a sick person who recovers, a chosson, and a king.

יִסוּרִין מִמְרַקִין כָּל עַוֹנוֹתָיו שֶׁל אָדָם
Yisurin/afflictions empty out all the sins of man.

חַלַל: Hollow, חוֹל: Weekday

In order for Hashem to create the world, He needed to remove Himself, so to speak, leaving behind a חַלַל/empty space in which we can exist. Our mission is to bring Hashem back into the חַלַל by filling it up with kedushah. חוֹל and hole sound very similar; we are trying to make the hole whole by making the hole holy! And the hollow becomes hallow.

Shabbos is the time when we separate, הַמַבְדִיל בֵּין קוֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל. It is a very special time that Hashem has given us to help us tune into the kodesh.

Likewise, a dead body is called a חַלַל/a hollow. When Hashem breathed into us a נְשָׁמָה, he gave us life. All the time we have the aspect of the Divine, we are alive, but when we die, we become hollow and lifeless.

The musical instrument חַלִיל/tube or flute is naturally related to חַלַל because it is hollow.

חַס וְחָלִילָה: G-d Forbid

חָלִלָה לְּךָ מֵעֲשֹׂת כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְהָמִית צַדִּיק עִם רָשָׁע
Chalilah for you, an action like this, to kill tzaddik with rasha.

When Avraham is challenging Hashem’s actions to destroy Sodom, the word חָלִילָה is used, which the commentaries explain to mean as lashon חוּלִין and also from חַלַל/a hollow act. Generally, it means that it should not come about. Often, the Gemara uses the expression חוֹזֶר וְחָלִילָה to denote something that repeats itself like a circle, so when we say חַס וְחָלִילָה, we mean to say that Hashem should not let the event come around.

חַלוֹן: Window

הַחַלוֹן מָקוֹם חַלַל. מָקוֹם יְגִיעַ לוֹ הַשֶׁבֶר תְּחִילָה
The window is a חַלַל/hollow in the walls of the house. The first place a crack will reach is the window.

לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ
Sin waits at the opening.

The yetzer hara is compared to a fly in that the fly has no power by itself to make an opening, but rather waits for a wound to open and attacks there. So too the yetzer hara sits at the door waiting for it to be opened. When we open a חַלוֹן/window of opportunity for the yetzer hara to enter, we indeed make ourselves חוּלִין/profane. We lose our connection, our aspect of divinity; our kedushah escapes and we become deflated as if we have a puncture — we are going nowhere. However, the reverse is also true. When we are inflated with kedushah we are uplifted, we feel light and invigorated, we become mobile; our holy ruach carries us — we are going places.

Perhaps חַלוֹם is related to חַלוֹן in that it is a window to the spiritual realm — as the Midrash says, dreams are one-sixtieth of prophecy.

הַתְחָלָה: Beginning

שֶׁכָּל הַתְחָלוֹת קָשׁוֹת
All beginnings are hard.

Rashi to the verse that says “And you should guard my bris” brings down the Mechilta that says all beginnings are hard. On Har Sinai, we entered into a covenant with Hashem to be an am segulah/treasured nation and an am kadosh/holy nation. When we are on the road to kedushah, on the road to filling up the חַלַל, then all הַתְחָלוֹת/beginnings are hard. The reverse is also true: when we are on the road in the opposite direction to a life of חוּלִין/profanity, then it is very easy. It is like blowing up a balloon — inflating it is hard, yet it is very easy to deflate it. The pasuk says: וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה, where the commentaries explain וַיָּחֶל to be lashon הַתְחָלָה, where Noach went quickly from being anאִישׁ צַדִּיק/righteous man to an אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה/man of the earth.

In the beginning, we are compared to an empty vessel, and our purpose is to breathe in kedushah, Torah, and life. חִנוּךְ/educating children means הַתְחָלָה, where all beginnings are hard, where הַתְחָלָה is lashon חוֹל because in the beginning we are empty and we don’t know how things will turn out. Only at the end of a person’s life סוֹף דָבָר הַכָּל נִשְׁמַע/everything will be heard.

חַל: To Take Effect

The word חַל on its own is from הַתְחָלָה and is used to describe when a new thing or situation takes effect.

יִחוּל: Hope, Wish

וַיִּיָּחֶל עוֹד שִׁבְעַת יָמִים אֲחֵרִים וַיְשַׁלַּח אֶת הַיּוֹנָה
And Noach waited another seven days and he sent out the yonah.

Here the word יִחוּל also comes from הַתְחָלָה, where we are hoping and wishing for there to be a change for the better.

חַלָה: Challah

Challah that we eat on Shabbos is named after the חַלָה that is separated from the dough and comes from lashon הַתְחָלָה, because first, before we can eat it, we have to separate חַלָה. חַלָה also comes from lashon חוּלִין, because once we have separated the קוֹדֵשׁ, that which remains is חוּלִין/ordinary food that can now be eaten.

By separating ourselves, we go from being חוֹל to קוֹדֶשׁ. And especially by giving what is first to Hashem we become holy. The Midrash says that in the merit of three things the world was created: in the merit of challah, maasaros, and bikkurim. And what is the reason whyבְּרֵאשִׁית /in the beginning בָּרָא אֶ-לֹהִים/Hashem created? For there is no beginning except for חַלָה.

אָדָם חַלָתוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם
Adam is the challah of the world.

Hashem wants us to take challah, for by taking challah we fix up the original sin. Hashem separated Adam from the adamah, and so Adam is known as the “challah of the world.” Adam is separated for a higher purpose and in doing so elevates the earth. Like with any טֶבֶל/non-separated grain, once the terumah and maaser has been taken, it is מְתּוּקַן/fixed up and ready to eat — it is now elevated.

But since man ate from the Tree of Knowledge, he profaned himself, and as a result he and the adamah were cursed. Now man has to toil for a living, whereas before things just grew out of the ground naturally. Now man needs to do the groundwork, preparing the ground in order for it to produce. This is not a punishment but rather a tikkun; by working the land and being involved with all the processes that are necessary to make bread, man has the ability to fix up the sin through the giving of challah. By giving challah, we come to recognize that all comes from Hashem and that all the work we do to make our parnasah is not really our doing, but rather it all comes from Hashem. Through this recognition, we return to become the challah of the world.

אָדָם חַלָתוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם/man is the challah of the world and the only part of the world that has the free choice to give up its independence, independence of the adamah, and rise above the earthly constraints and attain an elevated status. Through our actions of giving back to Hashem, we fulfill the creation for which Hashem created the world, for the רֵאשִׁית — for challah, maasaros, and bikkurim.

מָחוֹל: Machol

וַתִּקַּח מִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה אֲחוֹת אַהֲרֹן אֶת הַתֹּף בְּיָדָהּ וַתֵּצֶאןָ כָל הַנָּשִׁים אַחֲרֶיהָ בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלֹת
And Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand, and all the women went out after her with drums and macholos.

When we blow into something like bubblegum or a balloon, it makes a חַלַל/hollow, which is generally round. מָחוֹל, loosely translated as a tamborine, is a round musical instrument whose sound generates in people the desire to dance.

בְּנוֹת יִשׂרָאֵל יוֹצְאוֹת וְחוֹלוֹת בְּכְּרָמִים
Daughters of Yisrael, go out and dance in circles around the vineyard.

At the end of the Gemara in Taanis, when it talks about Tu B’Av, it says that the girls go out to the vineyard and dance around in circles. They dance in the space surrounding the vineyards known as the מְחוֹל הַכֶּרֶם.

The symbolism of the vineyard is not just happenstance. Rather, when regarding the time to be chosen as a wife, a girl is compared to a vine in that just like a vine is pure and cannot be crossbred, so too one should be blessed to find a woman who is pure and fruitful, like it says in Tehillim:  

אֶשְׁתְּךָ כְּגֶפֶן פֹּרִיָּה בְּיַרְכְּתֵי בֵיתֶךָ בָּנֶיךָ כִּשְׁתִלֵי זֵיתִים סָבִיב לְשֻׁלְחָנֶךָ
Your wife, like the vine, shall be fruitful in the inner chamber of your home.

Here, unlike the generation of Noach — which was very much impure and into crossbreeding — and unlike Noach who profaned himself with the vine, the kesher/connection between man and wife is like a never-ending circle of life that bears the fruits that enable the world to fulfill its purpose of being fruitful and giving.

The aforementioned Gemara in Taanis concludes with the following:

[bq]Says Rabi Eliezer, in the future HaKadosh Baruch Hu will make a מָחוֹל/circle for the tzaddikim and He will sit between them in Gan Eden, and each one of them will point his finger, as it says:

וְאָמַר בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא הִנֵּה אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ זֶה קִוִּינוּ לוֹ וְיוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ זֶה ה’ קִוִּינוּ לוֹ נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בִּישׁוּעָתוֹ
“And it will be said on that day, ‘Behold this is our G-d [in whom] we put our hope and He saved us, this is Hashem whom we put our hope in Him, we rejoice and we are happy in his salvation.’”

Jewish dancing is in circles; we dance around all together. What keeps us alive and moving is the recognition of who is at the center, symbolized by the pointing of fingers at Hashem, the aspect of the Divine that keeps the wheels turning.

 

 

Life Is Giving

וַיִּבְרָא אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱ-לֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם
And Hashem created the man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him, male and female He created them.

What is בְּצֶלֶם אֱ-לֹהִים? If we look closely at the pasuk, we see that it says that Hashem created us male and female. Hashem created the world in order to give, and in order to give there needs to be both a giver and receiver, Hashem being the giver and we being the receivers. So in order to emulate G-d, in order to be in His image, we also have an aspect of giver and receiver, male and female, and in this way we are able to emulate Hashem by being givers. We are born takers, as it says כִּי יֵצֶר לֵב הָאָדָם רַע מִנְּעֻרָיו/because the nature of man is evil from his youth, and for this reason Hashem gave us the aspect of woman — עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדוֹ/our helpmate opposite us — in order to transform us from taker to giver, to be like Hashem, a צֶלֶם אֱ-לֹהִים.

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת נֹחַ וְאֶת בָּנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ
And G-d blessed Noach and his sons and He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land.”

Having children further helps us to be givers and be in the image of G-d, because the father/son relationship is one of unconditional giving. However, a male/male or female/female relationship bears no fruits, and like two plugs or two sockets, there is no connection, no flow of energy, no cycle, no bicycle, nothing goes around. חָלִילָה — it remains like a חַלַל/a dead relationship.

וּמִכָּל הָחַי מִכָּל בָּשָׂר שְׁנַיִם מִכֹּל תָּבִיא אֶל הַתֵּבָה לְהַחֲיֹת אִתָּךְ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה יִהְיוּ
And from all the living, from all flesh, two from all you should bring to the ark to live with you, male and female they will be.

If Noach and his three sons had chosen to be gay, that would have been the end of mankind. For this reason Hashem said to Noach to bring male and female into the ark, because with two males or two females there is no proliferation; the relationship is doomed. The male/male relationship is a selfish relationship; there is no interest in having children, they are only interested in themselves. The world was created to פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ/ populate the earth, and this is the only way we can fill up the חַלַל and give it life, i.e., through giving. Only the male/female relationship brings Hashem’s masterplan to fruition.

וַיַּרְא אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת הָאָרֶץ וְהִנֵּה נִשְׁחָתָה כִּי הִשְׁחִית כָּל בָּשָׂר אֶת דַּרְכּוֹ עַל הָאָרֶץ
And G-d saw the earth and behold it was corrupted, because all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.

Indeed this is the reason why Hashem brought the flood — in order to cleanse the world fromמִשְׁכַב זָכָר/homosexual relationship, where man not only corrupted himself but also corrupted his surroundings, causing the animals to lose their way. It says in the Midrash that the legalization of same-sex marriages with kesubos/marriage contracts, including contracts between man and animal, was the ultimate cause of the flood.

אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ
My bow that I have given in the clouds will be a sign of covenant between me and the earth.

The bow in the clouds, otherwise known as the rainbow, is a sign that Hashem is not happy with our behavior, but nevertheless he faces the bow away from us as a sign of peace that He will not fire His arrows at us to destroy us.

However, we are living in a generation that has broken the contract, where man, חָלִילָה, has come full circle, and again the courts are allowing marriage contracts between man and man. Not only that, but they have stolen the colors of the rainbow and used it as their emblem. Waving the rainbow flag in the eyes of the world is like firing arrows at Hashem with His own bow, or, even worse, it is supplying Him with arrows to fire back on us, chas v’chalilah.

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Tzvi Abrahams

Founding Editor at Veromemanu
Rabbi Tzvi Abrahams was raised in The United Kingdom, and emigrated to Israel where he received his Rabbinical ordination. He recently published the book Root Connections In The Torah, and lectures on the beautiful connections of Biblical Hebrew root words. Tzvi lives in Zichron Yaakov, Israel with his wife, children and their friendly dog.

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Tzvi Abrahams