Titzaveh/Purim: For Crying Out Loud ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

When Esav found out that the blessing from his father Yitzchak had been given to Yaakov, Esav “cried out a great and bitter cry” (Genesis 27:34). The Midrash says that because Yaakov caused Esav to “cry out”, Yaakov’s descendants were later punished with the threat of annihilation (via Haman, a descendant of Esav), and Mordechai ended up having to “cry out” to G-d (Esther 4:1). In this way the Midrash links the fate of the Jewish People in the story of Purim to the story of Yaakov and Esav. However, this Midrash is somewhat problematic, because when looking at the Hebrew words used to convey Esav’s crying and Mordechai’s crying, one will notice that they are not the same. Esav’s crying is described as a tzaakah, while Mordechai’s, a zaakah.

What’s the difference between tzaakah and zaakah? (And don’t tell me the letter t!)

Rashi (to Iyov 6:17 and Sotah 36b), Nachmanides (to Iyov 40:17), the Zohar (Shemot 20a), and others, all explain that tzaakah and zaakah are wholly synonymous, and both words can be used interchangeably. They explain that both the letter ZAYIN in the beginning of the word zaakah, and the TZADIK in the beginning of the word tzaakah,yield similar phonemes, both articulated by the teeth. Therefore, these two letters can be used substituted for one another. Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (1740-1814) likewise writes that there is no difference between the words tzaakah and zaakah.Although he notes that the word tzaakah is related to the word tzaar (“pain”)he concludes that both words denote an outward expression of one’s pain and suffering (similar to crying).

According to this approach the Midrash is entirely justified in connecting Esav’s cries to Mordechai’s, because the Bible practically uses the same word for both.

However, the late 12th century Asheknazic scholar Rabbi Elazar Rokeach of Worms writes that the words tzaakah and zaakah are not synonyms. He explains that the word zaakah implies crying out in the context of registering a complaint, while tzaakah does not. He further notes that zaakah implies multiple people crying, while tzaakah does not. In light of this understanding it is somewhat difficult to justify linking Esav’s crying out to Mordechai’s crying if the Bible uses two different words to express those two different occurrences.

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Shapira-Frankfurter (1743-1826), who was Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s great-uncle, writes that while the terms zaakah and tzaakah can be used to express somebody pleading with another human, the word shaavah applies only to one who pleads with G-d. Rabbi Pappenheim explains that the word shaavah is related to the word yeshuah (both have the root SHIN-VAV-AYIN), and connotes one who calls out with the expectation that it bring his salvation.

Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) writes that all three words denote somebody who calls out with the expectation of bringing about his deliverance, but differ in one small detail. Those who engage in zaakah and tzaakah simply verbalize their suffering, but do not explicitly ask for help (like a poor man who cries, “I have not eaten in a long time”). By contrast, one who engages in shaavah makes his desire for help unmistakably clear (like a poor man who cries, “Please give me something to eat”). The Zohar also contends that tzaakah/zaakah is less explicit than shaavah, but explains that the former is the silent cry of pain, while the latter is an expression of prayer. According to one opinion in the Zohar, tzaakah/zaakah is a greater form of supplication because it denotes the crying out of the heart.

Psalms 107 tells of four people who ended up in dire circumstances, and they called out to G-d and were saved: the wayfarer lost in the desert, the incarcerated, the deathly ill and the sailor aboard a ship in the storm. In the first and last of these cases the word tzaakah denotes the sufferer’s crying out, while in the middle two cases the word zaakah appears.

Rabbi Emmanuel Chai Ricci (1688-1743) explains that the difference between tzaakah and zaakah is that the tz-consonant in the former is a longer sound than the the z-consonant in the latter. Accordingly, since the incarcerated and the deathly ill are confined to their respective places (the incarcerated to his jail cell and the ill to his deathbed), they use a shorter word than the other two, who have more options to escape their predicament.

The Midrash understands that these four fellows correspond to the four kingdoms which are to subjugate the Jewish People: Babylon, Persia/Media, Greece, and Rome. To explain this, the Midrash asserts that the first and last of the above kingdoms (Babylon and Rome) were more detrimental to the Jewish People than the middle two (probably because they both destroyed the Holy Temple and exiled the Jews from Jerusalem).

Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer (1866-1935) deduces from this that the word tzaakah denotes a more intense form of crying out than zaakah does, as it indicates a more serious state of distress. Indeed, Malbim (to Psalms 107:6) writes that the Bibles uses tzaakah (as opposed to zaakah) in the cases of the lost wayfarer and the sailor because they are in greater danger than are the jailed person and the sick person (unlike Tosefot to Berachot 54b who write that the four people are listed in order of their danger).




Terumah/Rosh Chodesh Adar: The Beauty of Adar ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

This week ushers in the month of Adar in all its glory. Like all the months of the Jewish calendar, the name Adar is derived from the Babylonian calendar — its original name was Addaru. Based on the interchangeability of the Aramaic ALEPH with the Hebrew HEY, the name Adar seems to be correlated to the Hebrew word hadar. In this essay, we will explore the difference between the word hadar (“glory”) and its twin sister hod (“splendor”). In doing so we will also discover the connection alluded to by Kabbalists between the month of Adar and the tribe of Yosef.

An anonymous work entitled Sefer HaKushyot (from the 13th century school of Chassidei Ashkenaz) explains that Adar is called so because during that month the hadar of the trees manifests itself (because Adar heralds the coming of spring), or because that was the month in which the glory of the Jewish People — Moshe Rabbeinu — was born. What does hadar mean? Rabbi Shlomo of Urbino (a 16th century Italian scholar) in his work Ohel Moed (a lexicon of Hebrew synonyms) writes that hadar and adar are two of ten synonymous words that refer to the concept of beauty: yofihodhadaradar, na’eh (naaveh), zivziztzvishefer (shapir), and tov. (Interestingly, Ziv — which literally means “radiance” — is the original name of the month of Iyar, which, like Adar, is partially in the spring.)

The Vilna Gaon explains the difference between hod and hadar by way of an analogy to astronomy. He explains that hod denotes self-beauty, just as the sun’s light express the essence of the sun. Hadar, on the other hand, denotes reflected beauty, just as the moon’s light is not inherent to the moon, but only appears to come from the moon. The true source of moonlight is the sun. Rabbi Moshe Shapiro (1935-2017) adds that in Aramaic the word hadar means to “return back”, which is an apt description of the moon, which reflects sunlight. The moon takes what it receives from the sun and reflects back the same light. Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) cites Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Luzzatto (1800-1865) who wrote that the word hadar (“glory” or “honor”) is related to the Aramaic word for “going backwards” because he who beholds something in its full glory is taken aback by its grandeur and reflexively recoils in awe.

The Vilna Gaon further explains that the term hadrat panim is the beauty of one’s facial ambiance and is visible to the naked eye. The term hod, on the other hand, refers to a person’s inner good (i.e. morality), which is reflected in one’s facial ambiance. Moshe Rabbeinu attained a spiritual level known as karnei hod (“rays of glory”) in which his inner goodness shone through in a very physical way (see Rashi to Ex. 34:34). As we will see below, Yehoshua remained with only hadar.

The Malbim explains that hadar refers to outward beauty. An etrog (citron) tree is called an eitz hadar (“beautiful tree”) because its fruits are outwardly beautiful. The word hod, on the other hand, refers to the concept of inner beauty. A person to whom the adjective hod is applied is somebody whose beauty lies in his character traits. He is humble, merciful, just, etc. Hod cannot be seen with the eye. It can only be beheld by the intellect. When Gd tells Moshe that his successor will be Yehoshua, He commands Moshe, “Give from your hod to him” (Num. 27:20). This does not refer to the exchange of any physical gift that Moshe possessed and should pass on to his protégé. Rather, it refers to the unseeable spiritual beauty which Moshe had, that he was to somehow transmit to his student. Rabbi Simcha Maimon explains that this is the meaning of the Talmudic adage “The face of Moshe is like the sun, and the face of Yehoshua is like the moon” (Bava Batra 75a): Yehoshua received his inner hod from Moshe in the same way that the moon receives its hod from the sun.

Hod makes up the root of the word hodaah (“admission” or “thanksgiving”). This is because the concept of hodaah is that one recognizes what he knows deep down to be true, and allows it to come to the forefront by verbally expressing it. In this again, we see that hod refers to that which lies underneath the surface.

The Midrash Sifrei (to Deut. 33:17) understands that the term hod refers specifically to the quality of kingship, possibly because a king assumes inherent powers. When Moshe prophetically blessed the Tribe of Yosef on his deathbed he said, “Like a firstborn ox, hadar is to him.” (Deut. 33:17). This means that the first leader of the post-Mosaic period will come from the Tribe of Yosef. Indeed, Yehoshua — Moshe’s successor — was a descendant of Yosef’s son Ephraim. In this passage, Moshe does not use the word hod,which implies the glory attached to the full sovereignty of kingship. Rather, he used the word hadar, which implies only the outer trappings of kingship, but not the full monty. For this reason, Moshe is called a king (Zevachim 102a), while Yehoshua — as important a leader as he was — is never explicitly called a king.

The Moshe-Yehoshua paradigm itself mirrors the Yaakov-Yosef model. Yaakov’s entire lifestory foreshadowed all the future events of Yosef’s life. In fact, Yosef is the quintessential descendant of Yaakov (see Genesis 37:2) and even looked exactly like him (see Rashi)! Yet, Yaakov is one of the three forefathers, while Yosef is merely a reflection of that potential. Yosef was hadar, but not hod. For this reason, the month of Adar is associated with the Tribe of Yosef, because in that month Moshe died and his successor Yehoshua took up the reins.

The Bible (I Chron. 29:25) tells that when King Solomon ascended the throne, G-d granted him Hod Malchut (“royal glory). However, when Daniel (Dan. 11:20) describes the glory of the future Hasmonean Kingdom, he uses a similar, but different, phrase: Hadar Malchut (“royal glory”). Why does the Bible use the word hadar when describing the Hasmonean Kingdom, and not the word hod like Solomon’s Kingdom? Based on the above, Rabbi Simcha Maimon explains that the term Hod Malchut refers to somebody to whom the kingship inherently belongs, so it is applied to King Solomon, an integral link in the chain of the Davidic Dynasty. The Hasmoneans, on other hand, did not inherently deserve the kingship. On the contrary, they were not of royal stock, but of priestly descent. Therefore, the Hasmoneans were not in essence kings; they only appeared to be kings on the outside. For this reason, Hasmonean kingship is described as Hadar Malchut, the word hadar representing something which is only true in practice, but not in essence.

The Bible in many places speaks of G-d possessing hod and hadar. Based on our definitions the Malbim explains that His hadar is manifest in the way He interacts with creation and reveals Himself in the world. However, G-d’s hod is something hidden which we cannot begin to understand because it speaks to something deeper than our ability to perceive. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) puts it, G-d’s hadar is His role in the world, while His hod is His essence.

What is fascinating about this is that the Bible in several places (e.g., Psalms 104:1, Job 40:10, Proverbs 31:25) speaks of G-d as “wearing” hod and/or hadar. Similarly, the Midrash says that when the Jews were exiled from the Holy Land to Babylonia, they wore their clothes until they reached Adullam, whereupon the gentiles of that city came out and stripped the Jews of their clothing, leaving them naked and embarrassed. The Midrash finds a Scriptural allusion to this in the verse, “Gone from the Daughter of Zion is all her hadar” (Lamentations 1:6). The word hadar, in this context, is understood to mean “clothing”. These sources tell us that there is a fundamental connection between glory/honor and clothing, but for that, you will have to wait until next week’s article.




Purim: Party Hearty ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

dscf1581

Each of the three meals that we eat on Shabbat (Tractate Shabbat 117b) is called a seudah. On Purim we also have a festive meal, but that meal is called a mishteh. What is the difference between the word seudah and the word mishteh if both mean “meal”? Moreover, there is a third word which also means “meal” — mesibah. In what way does the word mesibah differ from the other two words? In order to illustrate the differences between these three words and their connotations we will focus on the lexical roots of each word and draw from them deeper insights into their meanings.

What is the root of the word seudah? The truth is that the word seudah never appears in the Bible, but Radak in Sefer HaShorashim explains the etymology of seudah by noting that the Rabbis modified the Biblical word saad to become seudah. What does saad mean? The word saad means “support” or “sustenance”, both in a rhetorical way (proof that supports an argument) and in a physical way (food that sustains a person’s body). In a handful of places the Bible uses the verb saad in conjunction with bread (see Psalms 104:15, Judges 19:5, and Genesis 18:5). The name Saadia, most famously borne by Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon (882-942), means “support (from) G-d”. Thus, the word seudah refers to the benefits of a festive feast for sustaining one’s physical body.

The word mishteh or derivatives thereof appear close to fifty times in the entire Bible. Its root is the verb shoteh, “drink”. The type of meal, or party, denoted by the word mishteh, focuses on drinking. In differentiating between the words seudah and mishteh, Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin (1823-1900) writes that while they both refer to festive meals, the former focusing on eating and the latter focusing on drinking. Thus, seudah is generally associated with bread — the focus of the Shabbat meal — because one eats bread (which fills one’s stomach and physically supports him). On the other hand, the word mishteh denotes a meal whose focus is on wine — like the festive Purim meal which commemorates/mimics the banquets of wine in the Book of Esther — because one drinks wine. (See, however, Rashi to Song of Songs 1:2, to Ecclesiastes 2:3, and to Esther 5:4, who writes that the defining element of an enjoyable, joyous meal (seudah) is the wine.)

The word mesibah arguably appears once in the Bible (see Rashbam to Song of Songs 1:12). Rashi (to Amos 2:8) writes that the word mesibah refers to the fact that the participants in the meal would customarily recline (a practice known as haseibah). Case in point: At the Passover Seder we customarily ask four questions about why “this” night is different from all other nights. The last of those questions asks why “all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining (mesubin), but tonight we eat only while reclining”. Thus, the root of the word mesibah is related to the Hebrew word for reclining, and refers to the type of meal where people would sit slouched about, as opposed to sitting erect. It has since been borrowed to refer in general to any type of “party”.

One contemporary linguist argues that the word mesibah is related to the word sovev/sevivah (“around”), and refers to the fact that everyone “gathers around” for a party. However, this claim remains unsubstantiated.

In short, seudahmishteh, and mesibah are all words for “meal”, but are not quite synonymous. Seudah focuses on the bread eaten at the meal, while mishteh refers to a meal which focuses on drinking wine. The word mesibah focuses neither on the food nor the drink, but on the posture of the participants, because mesibah refers to a meal or party in which the party-goers are seated in couches or lazy-chairs, allowing them to lounge about.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv (1740-1810) in Kedushat Levi (Parshat Vayera) writes that the word mishteh denotes a “happy meal”. Based on that he explains that the party to which Esther invited Haman and Achashverosh is called a mishteh in the Bible because that party brought happiness to the Jews. Through that party Esther persuaded Achashverosh to execute Haman and rescind the horrible decree looming over the Jews. The resulting victory for the Jewish People brought happiness for generations to come and is celebrated yearly on Purim.