Lech Lecha: Where Are You Coming from and Where Are You Going? ~ Tzvi Abrahams

Parshas לֶךְ לְךָ

Where Are You Coming from and Where Are You Going?

לֵךְ: go

לְךָ: to you

הַלָכָה: the rules of how I lead my life

מֶלֶךְ: king

מַלְאַךְ: angel

מְלָאכָה: work

לֵך: Go

וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל אַבְרָם לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ
And Hashem said to Avram “Go to you, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”[1]

Avram is charged with a mission to move from his home and go on a journey. We are creatures of habit, and, as such, we don’t like change. We feel safe and comfortable within our surroundings, so we tend to stay with what we know. Avram was the first to make “aliyah,” the pioneer of the Jewish People in many respects; however, for many Jews, to leave home and make aliyah is too daunting to even contemplate. To leave one’s birthplace and be a stranger in a different land, to start all over again, to take on new customs and battle with trying to understand a language that is by no means easy, to sacrifice a well-paid job for who knows what — all seem like impossible tasks. Yet this is what Hashem charged Avram to do.

We have been coined with the phrase “the wandering Jew” because Hashem has made sure that whenever we become too comfortable and too successful, the goyim rise up against us and seize our property by either killing us or expelling us — the reason being that the only place a Jew really belongs is in the Eretz HaKodesh. We are the holy nation, and therefore we belong in the holy land, as it says the Jewish People, the Torah, and the land are one.

Do you know where you’re going? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going? Do you know?

The Kli Yakar comments on the words לֶךְ לְךָ, saying that Hashem was commanding Avram to go to the source of his creation, Har HaMoriah, the Makom HaMikdash. In other words, Avram was being told to go on a journey of self-exploration to the core of his very being and discover his essence. לֶךְ לְךָ/go to yourself is therefore the plain meaning of the words.

The first mention of הַלִיכָה in the Torah is in the following verse:

וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת קוֹל ה’ אֱ-לֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם
Adam and Chava heard the voice of Hashem moving in the garden through the breeze.[2]

The Ramban explains that this type of movement is a revealing of the Divine Presence in that specific place, which is represented by a breeze, a רוּחַ. הַלִיכָה is therefore a movement, a רוּחַ that is not governed by gravity. It is the breeze that Hashem breathed into us — life, ruach hachaim, a wind that moves oceans and creates waves, moves clouds (Hashem is רוֹכֵב עַרָבוֹת), and can split the sea (e.g., Yam Suf). We are known as a ruach memalelah, a speaking ruach, a קוֹל/voice that is a movement of air though the throat pushing against strings.

The next mention of הַלִיכָה is with regards to Chanoch:

וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ חֲנוֹךְ אֶת הָאֱ-לֹהִים וְאֵינֶנּוּ כִּי לָקַח אֹתוֹ אֱ-לֹהִים
And Chanoch walked with Hashem, and he was no more, because Hashem took him.[3]

Targum Yonasan translates the wordוַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ as וּפְלַח חַנוּךְ בְּקוּשְׁטָא, where פְּלַח means “to worship,” or “to till,” or “to split.” Here it means that Chanoch worshiped Hashem בְּקוּשְׁטָא/in truth. The commentaries explain that he was taken alive before his time because he had reached his spiritual height and was liable to fall, so Hashem took him before his time.

הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי וֶהְיֵה תָמִים
Hashem says to Avram: “Walk before me and be pure.”[4]

There, Targum Onkelos again uses the lashon of פְּלַח/worship before me, which Rashi translates as הִדָבֵק בְּעַבוֹדָתִי/cleave to my service.

So we see that when Hashem is the subject of הִתְהַלֵךְ, it is a revelation of his presence in the form of a breeze, and when man is the subject, it is in the form of Divine worship.

Hashem breathed into us His very essence in the form of our neshamah, which is the ruach of Hashem. Hashem was telling Avram: “Now that you are aware of my existence, go the rest of the way, cleave to me, and worship me.” Worship means to place every fiber of one’s being into the service of his Creator. This was represented by going to the source of creation, Har HaMoriah, and building a mizbei’ach and bringing korbanos.

On a deeper level, Hashem was telling Avram to break himself open (פְּלַח meaning to split), to go on a journey of self-discovery, to take a deep look inside himself, to pierce through the seed of his very being and reveal his Divine essence.

We see this principle in the following pasuk: וַיְכַל לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ וַיַּעַל אֱ-לֹהִים מֵעַל אַבְרָהָם.[5] When Hashem finished speaking with Avraham, it uses the lashon of Hashem went up from upon Avraham. Rashi says that the righteous are the vehicle of Hashem. By being davek to Hashem, by breaking through to our own unique Divine essence, we cause the Divine Shechinah to come down and rest upon us and we become His chariot, the King’s chariot. That’s why we stand up when a tzaddik passes by, because he is transporting the King.

When we realize who we are — a ruach of Hashem — then the Divine Presence is revealed, and one is then able to worship Hashem with all his kochos/strengths. Rashi said that Hashem was telling Avraham to cleave to Him through Divine service. The best way to stick to something is to be like it. So when we discover who we really are, the ruach of Hashem, only then are we truly able to cleave.

People who unfortunately go through life never stopping to take a look beneath the surface deprive themselves of the true purpose of life. They are cut off from their life source, their Creator. Instead of a life serving their Creator, they serve themselves. If you were to ask them what they want, the most common answer is money. They worship money because money gets what “I” want.

Yet anyone who takes the time to take a deeper look will discover an inner yearning to connect to his source. This is the message of לֶךְ לְךָ.

So where are you going? Do you know…?

לְךָ: To You

And where are we going…? We are going to You. Hashem did not create us alone. We are in this world to have a relationship; there is me and You. And who are You? When we daven to Hashem, we address Him in the second person “You”; when we say brachos, we always begin by saying, “Blessed are You Hashem.” Hashem is playing hide-and-seek and has placed us in the world to find Him. He is the לְךָ of לֶךְ לְךָ, go and find “You,” the real You, the ruach that I breathed inside of you. Hashem is in the center; He is in the center of the world in Yerushalayim, and He is the center of every Jew. The only way to find Him is to get up and go, לֶךְ לְךָ — we will never find Him by standing still! Only when Avram gets to the land does Hashem appear to him.

הַשֶׁמֶשׁ בָּא/the sun has come…
Man’s life is compared to the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, as it says, “Before the sun set on the life of Sarah, the sun rose on the life of Rivka.”[6] With regard to the lashon of “sunset is coming,” we would think that when the sun comes it refers to the sunrise, but in respect to a person’s life he is always going, and continuing to go, and when he gets closer to his destination, he is then said to be coming, like when the king returns from a long journey and everyone is so excited that they shout: “The king is coming!”

מֶלֶךְ: King

הִנֵּה הַמֶּלֶךְ מִתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵיכֶם
Behold the king goes before you.[7]

The king is the one who מוֹלֵךְ/leads the people. Lot, on the other hand, chose to place himself in a war zone, a place of many kings fighting each other, showing us that in a place where there are many leaders there in no peace, because everyone is being led by someone different. In order for there to be peace, there can be only one king, and this is represented by וּמַלְכִּי צֶדֶק מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם.[8]

מַלְאַךְ: Angel

מָרְדְכַי הוּא מַלַאכִי שֶׁהָיָה מִשְׁנֶה לְמֶלֶךְ
Mordechai is Malachi, because he was second to the king.[9]

The מַלְאַךְ is the messenger of theמֶלֶךְ /king. He is empowered with an aleph by the מֶלֶךְ/King to be a מַלְאַךְ in that he is second to the King who is represented by the aleph.

Indeed we see this connection between מַלְאַךְ and מֶלֶךְ in the Friday night zemer of Shalom Aleichem:
[heq] שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת, מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן, מִמֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא[//heq]
[enq]Peace be upon you ministering angels, angels from on high, from the King, the King of kings, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.[//enq]

עֹשֶׂה מַלְאָכָיו רוּחוֹת
Who makes His messengers winds.[10]

Hashem powers the world through His agents the מַלְאָכִים, His intermediaries, which are flows of energy that are channelled through the stars, known as the mazalos. זִיל is the Aramaic word for “go,” so too מַזַל means “to go,” “to flow.” The mazal of a man is his angel.[11] An animal does not have a mazal whereas man does, because man also creates an energy flow that flows back in the opposite direction towards its source, Hashem. In having a mazal, man has the power to affect the way the world moves, as we see with Moshe and Yehoshua who were able to stop the sun and stars from moving.

וַיּוֹצֵא אֹתוֹ הַחוּצָה
And He took him outside.[12]

Hashem took Avram above the stars and out of the sphere of influence, informing him that he and his offspring the Jewish Nation are not governed by mazal, rather we can create our own mazal. We are beyond the movement of the world, and we can indeed move the world. Avram is no longer called Avram but Avraham. Hashem gave him an extra letter, ה, and from here we learn that by changing our name we can affect a change in our mazal. Whereas Avram was not able to have children, Avraham was, to such an extent that he was known as אָב הַמוֹן גוֹיִם/a father of many nations. Hashem also blesses him with כָּל/everything, which has the gematria of fifty, symbolizing perfection.

Hashem is אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ; he is both אָב וְמֶלֶךְ/Father and King. When we finally get to where we are going, עוֹלָם הַבָּא/the Next World — which is sometimes referred to as עוֹלָם הַפוּךְ/a world that is opposite or upside-down — there we will see the true reality the right way up. When we arrive, בָּא will reverse to become אָב, and כָּל will become לְךָ. Meaning, that if we בָּא/come with כָּל/everything, i.e., our perfected selves, then we will be זוֹכֶה /merit to get to לְךָ/You, our אָב /Father, אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ/our Father and our King, because we are מוֹלֵך לְמֶלֶךְ/going to the King.

כִּי הֹלֵךְ הָאָדָם אֶל בֵּית עוֹלָמו
For a man goes to his grave.[13]

Man is called הוֹלֵךְ/going, whereas the angels are called עוֹמְדִים/standing.[14] All the time man is in the world he is looking, he is searching, he is running to satisfy his deepest desire to connect to Hashem, whereas the angels, who live in the עוֹלָם הַאֶמֶת/World of Truth, are not looking. They see everything with crystal clarity, hence they are considered standing.

מְלָאכָה: Work

וַיְכַל אֱ-לֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה
And G-d completed on the seventh day His work which He did, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He did.[15]

In מַעַשֶׁה בְּרַאשִׁית/creating the world Hashem did מְלָאכָה/work. Here מְלָאכָה is defined as a creative action instigated by Hashem the Creator, the מֶלֶךְ/King whose thoughts and directives are carried out by His מְלָאכִים. Here מְלָאכָה is no ordinary work but the Divine handiwork of Hashem, and through His creation we can see the Creator.[16] Indeed it was Avraham who looked intently into the בְּרִיאָה/creation and saw the בּוֹרֵא עוֹלָם/Creator of the universe. Avraham was able to see past the stargazers, realizing that the הַלִיכָה/movement of the sun, moon, and stars was not just stam/happenstance, but rather that there must be a מַנְהִיג/driver who is moving everything.

Why was Avraham zocheh to הַכָּרֵת הַבּוֹרֵא/recognize the Creator while others in his generation were not? The answer lies in the following pasuk:

וְלֹא תִקַּח שֹׁחַד כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם
Do not take a bribe, because a bribe will blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the tzaddikim.[17]

A bribe blinds our עַיִן הַשִׂכְלִי/mind’s eye from seeing the truth. Having אֶמוּנָה in a בּוֹרֵא עוֹלָם/Creator of the universe obligates us to a life of rules and regulations that are diametrically in opposition to those who wish to lead a life pursuing the pleasures of this world, for the eye of their seichel has been blinded to such a degree that they are impelled to deny there even being a מַנְהִיג/overseer in order that they can be free to do whatever they want.[18]

הַלָכָה: The Rules of How I Lead My Life

תָּנָא דְּבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ כָּל הַשּׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת בְּכָל יוֹם מֻבְטָח לוֹ שֶׁהוּא בֶּן הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר הֲלִיכוֹת עוֹלָם לוֹ אַל תִּקְרֵי הֲלִיכוֹת אֶלָּא הֲלָכוֹת
Everyone who learns halachos every day is guaranteed that he is a ben Olam HaBa, as it says: “The ways of the world are His” — do not read “ways” but “halachos.”[19]

The Gemara says that since the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, HaKadosh Baruch Hu can only be found in the ד’ אַמוֹת שֶׁל הַלָכָה/four amos of halachah.[20]

The Maharal explains that Torah is called הַלָכָה in that Torah brings a person to Olam HaBa. Just like the words of the Torah are אֶמֶת/true in that they do not veer right or left from the truth, rather they are straight, so too Torah is called הַלָכָה because the one who goes with them goes in the straight path, neither right nor left, and this is the way that leads man to Olam HaBa.

And this is hinted to in the Gemara where it says הִגִיעַ לְפַּרְשַׁת דְרָכִים נִיצוּל מִכּוּלָם/when you reach the crossroads you will be saved from everything,[21] meaning that when you learn according to הַלָכָה, which is called פָּרָשַׁת דְרָכִים/the crossroads, the way will be easily distinguishable from all other ways that go right and left, and this is the right way that is fitting to go.

וַיִּמְצָאָהּ מַלְאַךְ ה’ עַל עֵין הַמַּיִם בַּמִּדְבָּר עַל הָעַיִן בְּדֶרֶךְ שׁוּר
And the angel of Hashem found her (Hagar) by the spring of water in the desert on the main road to Shor.[22]

The angel then proceeds to ask Hagar: “אֵי מִזֶּה בָאת וְאָנָה תֵלֵכִי — Where are you coming from and where are you going?”[23] The angel was saying to Hagar: “Take a good look and see where you are coming from, the holy house of Avraham, and see where you are headed to, to chutz la’aretz, a place of impurity and wicked people.”[24]

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos says: דַּע מֵאַיִן בָּאתָ, וּלְאָן אַתָּה הוֹלֵךְ וְלִפְנֵי מִי אַתָּה עָתִיד לִתֵּן דִּין וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן/know where you came from and where you are going and before Whom you will in the future give a judgment and accounting, namely the King of Kings.[25] This will keep us on track and focused on our goal. עַל הָעַיִן, the main road, the road that we see with our eye, and that we need to see continually in our mind’s eye to check that we are going in the right direction.

The Seforno translates the words עַל הָעַיִן to mean עַל אֵם הַדֶרֶךְ/the main road. Instead of small windy paths, the main road is straight, giving one’s eye a clear perspective of where he is going, hence the term עַל הָעַיִן.

The expression אֵם הַדֶרֶךְ, literally “the mother way,”[26] is explained by the Radak to come from the fact that all the roads turn into her, where she is to them like a mother, and they are to her like children.

שְׁמַע בְּנִי מוּסַר אָבִיךָ וְאַל תִּטֹּשׁ תּוֹרַת אִמֶּךָ
Hear my son the mussar of your father, and do not forsake the Torah of your mother.[27]

From the above pasuk we can explain אֵם הַדֶרֶךְ in a different way, to mean the Torah of your mother. Shlomo HaMelech is warning us not to forsake the teachings of our mothers who have instructed us to go in the straight path of the Torah.

It is particularly the Oral Torah that keeps us on the straight path. With its rich tapestry of Mishnah and Gemara, the Oral Torah challenges us to decipher the correct way to go. It is the explanation of the Written Torah that was given to Moshe at Har Sinai, containing the general principles with its finer details of how we are meant to conduct ourselves in every aspect of life. How we navigate our way through life with the guidance of the Torah is called פְסַק הַלָכָה/the decisive way. As the Maharal said above, when we learn according to הַלָכָה, which is calledפָּרָשַׁת דְרָכִים/the crossroads, the way will be easily distinguishable. הַלָכָה is therefore the אֵם הַדֶרֶךְ and is hinted to in that the Oral Torah begins with the letters מ and א from the word מֵאֵימָתַי.

This is the way we should lead our lives, because only through הַלָכָה are we able to discern which way to go. When we are faced with crossroads or any fork in the road, הַלָכָה will dictate the right road to go on. And this will give us clarity of vision to know the answer to the question: where are you coming from and where are you going?

  1. Ibid., 12:1.

  2. Ibid., 3:8.

  3. Ibid., 5:22,24.

  4. Ibid., 17:1.

  5. Ibid., v. 22.

  6. Bereishis Rabbah 58:2.

  7. Shmuel I 12:2.

  8. Bereishis 14:18.

  9. Megillah 15a.

  10. Tehillim 104:4.

  11. Rashi; Shabbos 53b.

  12. Bereishis 15:5.

  13. Koheles 12:5.

  14. Shemos Rabbah 25:2.

  15. Bereishis 2:2.

  16. See Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to Bereishis ibid.

  17. Devarim 16:19.

  18. Rabbi Yerachmiel Kram, year 3:100.

  19. Megillah 28b.

  20. Brachos 8a.

  21. Sotah 21a.

  22. Bereishis 16:7.

  23. Ibid., v. 8.

  24. Seforno to Bereishis ibid.

  25. Avos 3:1.

  26. See Yechezkel 21:26.

  27. Mishlei 1:8.




Noach: Aspect Of The Divine ~ Tzvi Abrahams

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Parshas  נֹחַ

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.

1 Bereishis 9:20.

2 Devarim 17:15; Bei’ur Yonasan, found in the Oz V’Hadar edition on the Chumash.

3 Ibid., 25:5.

4 Tehillim 122:7.

5 Baal Haturim to Shemos 21:19.

6 Brachos 5a.

7 Bereishis 18:25.

8 Shemos Rabbah 26:2; Maharzu.

9 Bereishis 4:7.

10 Bereishis Rabbah 17:5.

11 Rashi to Shemos 19:5; Mechilta.

12 Midrash Koheles 12:14.

13 Bereishis 8:12.

14 Bereishis Rabbah 1:4.

15 Bereishis Rabbah 14:1.

16 Shemos 15:20.

17 Taanis 31a.

18 Ben Yehoyada to Taanis ibid.

19 Tehillim 128:3.

20 Yeshayah 25:9.

21 Bereishis 1:27.

22 Ibid., 8:21.

23 Ibid., 9:1.

24 Ibid., 6:19.

25 Ibid., 6:12.

26 Bereishis Rabbah 26:5; see also Rashi to Bereishis 6:2.

27 Bereishis 9:13.




Bereishit: Naked before Hashem ~ Tzvi Abrahams

Parshas בְּרֵאשִׁית

Naked before Hashem

עַרוּמִים: naked

עָרוּם: cunning

עַרָמָה: a pile of grains

וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וְלֹא יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ
And the two of them were naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה
And the snake was cunning, more than all the other animals of the field.

The Gemara in Chullin uses the words עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת/naked in da’as in comparing man to an animal, to describe someone who is wise in understanding like Adam HaRishon yet conducts himself humbly like an animal.

One can also translate עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת as being naked in knowledge, just like an animal. Animals are not only naked in respect to clothing, but also in that they also have no da’as

Let us now try and explain the connection between the cunningness of the snake with respect to the nakedness of man.

עַרוּמִים: Naked

Before man ate from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, he stood naked before Hashem without feeling ashamed. Now, according to the understanding of Rashi on the above-quoted Gemara in Chullin connecting the wordעַרוּמִים /naked to Adam HaRishon, we know that he was not just naked in respect to clothing but that he was also naked in דַעַת/knowledge. Only after eating from the עֵץ הַדַעַת/the Tree of Knowledge did he have the דַעַת/knowledge to be aware that he was naked without clothing. 

So what happened before and after he ate from the Tree of Knowledge? 

When we say an animal is naked in דַעַת, we mean to say that he has no self-awareness. An animal does not have an ego, a self-identity; it just acts on instinct without thinking about itself. Man, on the other hand, is aware of himself; he has an ego. Yet before he ate from the tree, man was naked in דַעַת, meaning he was humble, he did not have an ego, he was not self-aware to the point of being concerned about his own needs — he stood naked before Hashem. There was very little to separate him from Hashem. Only after he ate from the עֵץ הַדַעַת/Tree of Knowledge did he have דַעַת, i.e., knowledge of the yetzer hara that entered into his very being. Now he became self-aware and self-centered, now he had an ego, now he was very much separated from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, now that he had דַעַת. 

עָרוּם: Cunning

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם/and the snake was cunning. Unlike Adam HaRishon, who used his דַעַת to make himself lowly  (conducting himself lowly like a בְּהֵמָה), the נָחָשׁ/snake used his דַעַת to rise above מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה/ all the animals in the field. He used עַרָמָה/cunning to trick man into thinking he was doing a good thing. In a way, the נָחָשׁ/snake was stripping man of his knowledge, using עַרָמָה/cunning to cause man to be עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת and stripping man of his innocence. Once divested of his דַעַת, man was open to sin, and the snake entered inside of him.

What is the clothing of the soul but our ma’asim tovim/good deeds and our good middos? Before the sin with the עֵץ הַדַעַת/Tree of Knowledge, man only had good middos, there was no evil inside of him. The light of Hashem shone right through him, clothing him in the ohr/light of Hashem. The nachash stripped man of his translucent clothes — which represented his good middos — and replaced them with physical, more gashmiyus clothing — representing the bad middos — causing the light of his neshamah to be clouded and covered up instead with skin. The clothing of the skin was ugly in comparison to its former brilliance, hence the word כְּעוּר/ugly, which is also the Hebrew word for “like skin.” 

Middah k’neged middah/measure for measure, the snake is painfully stripped of its clothing every seven years. When it sheds its skin, an agonizing voice goes out from one end of the world to the other, yet the sound is not heard, a fitting reminder of that once heinous deed.

עַרָמָה: A Pile of Grains

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch compares עַרָמָה/a heap or pile of grain to cunningness. One who is cunning is clever in that he makes תַּחְבּוֹלֶת/calculated plans to ensnare his victims. תַּחְבּוֹלֶת is connected to the word חֶבֶל/rope, because just like a rope draws close what is far away, so too one who is a schemer draws one close to his trap. A rope is made up of many individual fibers that are wound together. Just like an individual thread has no power alone but when bound together to form a rope has power, so too an individual grain is of no consequence, yet when gathered together to form an עַרָמָה /pile has significance. Similarly, one who is עָרוּם/cunning weaves together a web of thoughts that has the power to entrap.

When it comes to the demise of the Egyptians in the Yam Suf, the Torah uses the word עַרָמָה, where they were drowned in heaps of water. Targum Onkelos translates the word as “with wisdom.” The wisdom was that it took careful planning by Hashem to get the Egyptians to the point where they willingly followed Bnei Yisrael into the sea. The Egyptians, having drowned the Jewish babies in the river, measure for measure were met with the same demise.

Rav Hirsch quotes the Radak as saying עַרוּם is connected to עֶרְיָה/bare, which is connected to עוֹר/skin, עֵר/awareness, andעִוֵר /blindness.

As we know, the job of the Samal, the Satan, is to blind us, to cover up our mind’s eye so that we can no longer see the truth. 

The snake, having seen Adam and Chava engage in relations, desired to have relations with Chava. His plan was to seduce her; he opened her eyes to desiring the fruit, to be like G-d, knowing good and bad.

The Torah describes the intimate relationship between man and woman in terms of דַעַת/knowledge,
as in וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ/and Adam knew Chava his wife.

Due to the sin, Adam lost his connection with Hashem to the point where Hashem said: “אַיֶכָה/Where are You?” Adam hid from Hashem due to shame, the shame of having lost his da’as, his intimacy with Hashem. Instead, he felt the distance, the awareness of his own nakedness, the need to cover up, to have לְבוּשׁ/clothing, from  לֹא בּוּשׁ/to cover up his shame, and בֶּגֶד/garments due to בָּגַד/his betrayal. 

In order to attain kaparah/atonement, it was necessary for the punishments to fit the crime, middah k’neged middah.

The snake tried to bring man down from his lofty height, so he too was cut down, and instead of being desirable (in that he desired Chava), he is detested, being an agent of death.

Instead of having relations to be fruitful, Chava had relations of pleasure with the snake — her desire leads her to great pain in childbirth. She also caused death in the world, which is why she bleeds every month and which is why she can sometimes die in childbirth. In the garden, man had all of his needs taken care of, to the point where bread literally grew from the trees. He was therefore free to pursue his ikar avodah/essential service of serving Hashem through toiling in the Torah. Instead, man was sent out from the Garden to sweat and work the land to earn his bread, his parnasah, which puts him in a constant battle (מִלְחֶמֶת הַתּוֹרָה) every day with his Torah learning and his ability to reconnect with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

עָרוּם רָאָה רָעָה (ויסתר) וְנִסְתָּר וּפְתָיִים עָבְרוּ וְנֶעֱנָשׁוּ
The wise man sees what is bad and hides, the fools transgress and are punished.

By default, the eye is naked. The wise man sees what is bad and hides; he is able to see what is coming by stripping away the outer allure and revealing the naked truth. The fool, however, pulls the wool over his eyes and blinds himself from seeing.

We are trying to get to the point of Adam HaRishon before he sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad. In order to succeed, we need to use עַרָמָה/cunningness to outsmart the נָחָשׁ and play him at his own game — to bare naked his plans in order to see and get rid of the רַע/bad, the ego, and regain the דַעַת of intimacy, of being in a state of אֵין עוֹד מִלְבַדוֹ/there being nothing but Hashem. We have to be עַרוּמִים בְּדַעַת/naked in da’as and be humble like the animals to the point where “I,” the ego, does not exist, by unpeeling the קְלִיפוֹת/peels, divesting our clothes, our shame, our betrayal, and exposing ourselves, our true selves, to the point where we can again stand naked before Hashem.

1 Bereishis 2:25.

2 Ibid., 3:1.

3 Chullin 5b; see Rashi.

4 Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 34.

5 Radak on Yechezkel 16:7.

6 Bereishis 4:1.

7 Shabbos 77b.

8 Ibid., 32a.

9 Mishlei 22:3.