Eikev: Heal the Heel and Walk the Straight Path ~ Tzvi Abrahams

Parshas עֵקֶב

Heal the Heel and Walk the Straight Path

עֵקֶב: if only, to step upon, because of, end reward

עֵקֶב: heel 

עִיקוּב: curved

יַעַקֹב: Yaakov, deception, sidestepping

עִקְבְתָא דִּמְשִׁיחָא: the footsteps of the Mashiach

וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם וְשָׁמַר ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ לְךָ אֶת הַבְּרִית וְאֶת הַחֶסֶד אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ 

And it will be “if only” you will listen to these judgments and you will guard them and do them, Hashem your G-d will guard for you the bris and the kindness that He swore to your fathers.

וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן 

Rashi comments that the Torah is telling us to be more careful in the mitzvos that we treat lightly, those that we tend to trample on with our heels. 

Ramban translates עֵקֶב as “because of,” as in because of [our] listening to the mitzvos, Hashem will keep His promise and keep the covenant of the fathers, to love us and bless us.

עֵקֶב also denotes “the end,” in context to the reward that we will receive for observing the mitzvos, since in relation to man, the head is first and the heel is last. A baby is born headfirst with the עֵקֶב emerging last.

Targum Onkelos translates עֵקֶב as round, because the heel is round, and because by surrounding ourselves with the mitzvos, Hashem will keep his promise.

עֵקֶב: Heel

The first mention of עֵקֶב in the Torah is in connection with the נָחָשׁ. Part of his punishment was that his legs were removed. Consequently, he lost his ability to stand and must forever crawl on his stomach. Man can stand on him and crush his head, but the snake can bite man’s heel.

Just like poison travels from the heel to the head, so too the yetzer hara starts, just like the snake, with the mitzvos that we treat lightly, i.e., that we trample on with our heels. Aveirah leads to more aveiros, from small ones to big ones, until our minds are poisoned with its venom.

The English term “Achilles’ heel” refers to one’s weakest point, named after a character in Greek mythology. But really the reason for the heel being the weakest point comes from this very idea of the snake from Bereishis.

If you were ever a beach bum in a previous life, having spent many hours basking under the sun, you may have recognized that of all the parts of the body that flies are attracted to, it is most commonly the foot and heel.

The Gemara brings our attention to a fascinating point about reality. It states that rather than it being the snake that bites, it is sin that bites. Although the snake’s venom has the potential to kill, it is also the potential for refuah/to heal. This is seen clearly with the incident of the plague of snakes that came to an end when the Jewish People focused on the נְחַשׁ נְחשֶׁת /copper snake. The snake’s bite in effect allows us the opportunity to rectify the sin — as long as we catch it in time.

In Koheles it says that a crooked thing cannot be made straight, while in the Midrash it says that what is crooked can be straight — seemingly contradictory statements. The difference between them is that the one who is corrupt cannot become straight, however the one who does teshuvah is able to straighten himself.

עִיקוּב: Curved

The Ramban in this parshah attributes עֵקֶב to lashon עִיקוּב/curved, something done in a roundabout way. Contrast that with the name ofיְשׁוּרוּן /Yeshurun, from lashon יָשָׁר/straight, which is the opposite of יַעַקֹב. When יַעַקֹב merited having his name changed, it was because he had struggled with the yetzer hara, who represents roundaboutness, and thereafter was straight, i.e., straight to Hashem.

When the yetzer hara comes to trick us, the weapon he finds most effective is roundaboutness, nothing less than a spiritual curve ball. If he were to attack us straight on, we would see him coming all too easily, and we would back off. Therefore, to be more effective, he disguises himself and attacks us in a roundabout way. This is why the snake, which represents the yetzer hara, does not travel in a straight line but rather in a crisscross motion.

Incidentally, in the pasuk, “Say to the daughters of Yaakov and speak to the sons of Yisrael,” Rashi says that the men are spoken to in a harsh manner while the women need to be spoken to in a soft manner. From our explanation, we can see that men need a direct approach, while women need a roundabout approach. Married men know this all too well; women are impossible when it comes to communication. Everything women intend for their husbands to understand is alluded to in a roundabout way and needs to be figured out. Some examples: “The garbage is full,” means “Please can you empty the garbage.” “I left my phone downstairs,” means “Can you go downstairs and bring me my phone?” “I’m feeling hot,” means “Put on the air conditioning!”

יַעַקֹב: Yaakov, Deception, Sidestepping

Not only was יַעַקֹב called so because he was born hanging onto the heel of Eisav, but he also had to fight and trick Eisav in a roundabout way. After יַעַקֹב stole the brachos from Eisav, Eisav used the lashon of וַיַּעְקְבֵנִי זֶה פַעֲמַיִם/he has deceived me twice, i.e., first with the birthright and now with the blessing. This middah of deception was also employed to outsmart the biggest trickster of them all — Lavan, Mr. White on the outside, yet very corrupt on the inside. When יַעַקֹב finally graduated from the house of Lavan, he was ready to do battle with his brother Eisav. When they met head-on, יַעַקֹב no longer had to resort to the sidestepping tactics of his youth. The fight was a spiritual one, where יַעַקֹב wrestled with his yetzer hara, the Satan, the angel of Eisav. Once יַעַקֹב proved himself a worthy opponent of the yetzer hara, he was given the name יִשׂרְאֵל, יָשָׁר אֵ-ל, which means “straight to Hashem.” As we mentioned above, the Bnei Yisrael are also known as “Yeshurun,” straight, which is the opposite of עִיקוּב.

The Rambam says that we have middos at opposite extremes, and our goal is to choose the middle path, which he also calls the straight path. For example, one should neither be a miser nor a spendthrift, sad nor euphoric, but rather in the middle of every trait. Hashem gave us a seichel/mind in order to weigh our decisions so as not to veer left or right like a snake, but to be levelheaded and lead a life of balance. Not to allow ourselves to be deceived, but rather to be יָשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי ה’/straight in the eyes of Hashem.

 עִקְבְתָא דְמְשִיחָאThe Footsteps of the Mashiach

“The footsteps of the Mashiach” can be explained thusly: in every generation there is someone who is fitting to be Mashiach, but it depends on whether his generation is deserving of the Mashiach. The following question is asked: “If the former generations of David HaMelech and Rabi Akiva were not deserving of the Mashiach, how do we, in our generation, ever hope to see the Mashiach?” One of the answers given is that we are in the process of making the primordial man. After Adam sinned, his soul shattered into many pieces, and each successive generation is rebuilding the body of man, starting with the head, which equates to the greater generations, down to our comparatively low generation. Each generation is important, and we are at the heels of it all, which is why our generation has to walk in the dirt. We are literally living in the times known as the footsteps of the Mashiach.

ה’  עֵקֶב עֲנָוָה יִרְאַת

וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל מָה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי אִם לְיִרְאָה אֶת ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ
And now, Yisrael, what is it that Hashem your G-d asks from you? Only to fear Hashem your G-d…
In the middle of the parshah, we are suddenly given a very profound statement that says that all Hashem really wants from us is to fear Him. This is why the Gemara says:הַכֹּל בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם חוּץ מִיִּרְאַת שָׁמַיִם / everything is in the hands of Heaven except for yiras Shamayim/fear of Heaven. How we reach this prolific goal is hinted to in the very name of the parshah itself, עֵקֶב. In the pasuk עֵקֶב עְֶנָוָה יִרְאַת ה’/on the heels of humility is fear of Hashem, it teaches us that the prerequisite to fear of Hashem is to be humble. What lets us down is arrogance. Hashem warns us not to forget Him and not to attribute everything to our own might and our own hands. So to counteract this, we need to acquire עַנָוָה/humility. 

In the above pasuk, by way of Moshe’s expression to the Jewish People that all Hashem asks is to just fear Him, the Gemara asks whether yiras Shamayim is therefore such a simple thing to acquire. It answers by saying that for Moshe, who exemplified the middah of עַנָוָה/humility, it was an easy thing, being that humility is the prerequisite to fear of Heaven. For the rest of the Jewish People, whose level of עַנָוָה is not as high, fear of Heaven is far from being a simple matter.

עַנָוָה allows us to bend when we need to bend, allows us to stand straight without being knocked down. Like a קָנָה/cane, we stand straight, yet when a strong wind blows, we can bend rather than break at the heel. But we can only do this if our heels are strong, by not trampling on the mitzvos, by not allowing the snake to bite us, by crushing the yetzer hara with our heel. Then our heels will be able to carry us and stand us up straight on our feet, and we can acquire this very special middah of yiras Shamayim.




Eikev: Rain, Rain Come Again ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

The Bible uses many words that mean “rain”. The rationale for this might simply be that rainfall was so important to ancient Jewish society who lived in an agrarian civilization. However, given that the words of the Hebrew language bear intrinsic meanings and the Bible is not simply a thesaurus, there must be a deeper implication to the multiplicity of words for “rain”.

The most commonly-used word for rain is geshem, but the Bible also uses other words in referring to the fall of precipitating water from the heavens. In a Biblical passage popularized because of its inclusion in the daily Shma prayer, G-d says that if the Jews properly listen to His commandments, then He “will give the rain (matar) of your land in its time, rain (yoreh) and rain (malkosh)” (Deut. 11:14). That is, He promises to give matar in its proper times, and two time-bound types of rain are yoreh and malkosh. First, we will explain the difference between geshem and matar, and then we will discuss the difference between yoreh and malkosh.

Some explain that geshem is a general term which includes all sorts of rain, while matar refers specifically to “rains of blessing”. A similar approach defines matar as specifically heavy rain, which explains why forms of that word are also used in conjunction with the volley of fire and brimstone that destroyed Sodom (Gen. 19:24) and with the plague of hail in Egypt (Ex. 9:18).

Others take the opposite approach, arguing that matar is the general term for rain, while geshem refers to a specific type of rain — in this case hard rain or “rains of blessings”.

Others explain the difference between the rains of geshem and the rains of matar by noting a fundamental difference in their origins. They write that geshem refers to a natural system in which evaporated waters and other gasses are held in clouds until certain winds drive them to release those vapors, resulting in rainfall. These rains are not bound to any specific times, but simply materialize naturally whenever enough vapors have collected in the clouds. For this reason, the word geshem was borrowed by later sources to refer to all sorts of “material matter” (i.e., gashmiyut). Matar, on the other hand, refers to a supernatural order by which G-d directly brings rain at certain times. In the passage cited above, those time-bound rains are known as yoreh and malkosh.

What are yoreh and malkosh? The word yoreh (or moreh) literally means “shoots”, as well as “teacher”, while the word malkosh is related to the Hebrew word mekoshesh(reaper). What do these literal translations teach about these time-bound rains? The Talmud (Ta’anit 6a) explains that yoreh falls at the beginning of the rainy season, thus it is called a “teacher” because it “teaches”people when to reinforce their roofs and bring their produce indoors to avoid possibly being destroyed by subsequent rains. Malkosh is the name given to rain which falls at the onset of spring (Pesach-time). Its name is related to the Hebrew word for reaping because malkosh falls near the harvest season, right before the produce is reaped.

In short, the different words for rain are not simply a product of the agricultural importance of rain; they refer to different ways in which G-d provides for the world. Some elements of Creation require a strong, torrential downpour in order to be quenched, while others require only a drizzle and would otherwise drown in a deluge of water. Moreover, vegetation tends to grow at different times of the year, so rain must drop at those different periods. G-d accommodates all of these different considerations, and the Hebrew language reflects those concerns.




Eikev: Comforting Anger? – Yehoshua Steinberg

Parshat Eikev – Whipped-Up Anger 

The root ketzef(קצף) appears in Parashat Eikev more times than in any other Parsha, as follows: 

Moses reminds the Jews: “Remember, do not forget how you הִקְצַפְתָּ Hashem your God in the Wilderness; from the day you exited the Land of Egypt until your arrival at this place, you have been rebels against Hashem” (Deut. 9:7). 

“At Horeb you הִקְצַפְתֶּם Hashem and Hashem became angry with you to destroy you” (Deut. 9:9). 

Then, when telling about the aftermath of the Golden Calf debacle, Moses relates that he prayed on behalf of the Jewish People “because I was fearful of the wrath and anger, which Hashem קָצַף against you to destroy you” (Deut. 9:19). 

And finally, later in that chapter when summing up the Jews’ misdeeds in the wilderness, Moses again says, “And in Taberah, in Masah, and in Kivrot-HaTaavah, you were מַקְצִפִים Hashem” (Deut. 9:22).

What does קצף mean? Some commentators, including Ibn Ezra (to Est. 1:12) and Radak (to Deut. 9:22) explain that קצף refers to a very intense form of anger. They explain that the burning intensity of that type of anger is comparable to the burning intensity of boiling water. In fact, the Aramaic word for “boiling” (riticha) is also used to denote anger. With this in mind, Ibn Ezra and Radak explain why Hos. 10:7 refers to boiling waters as קצף על פני המים, a קצף on the face of the waters. Tosafot Ha-Shaleim (to Ex. 16:20 [vol. 7, p. 273]) adds that just the bubbles on the surface of water is a sign of the water boiling, so does the sweat on an angry man’s face show that he has reached the level of anger commensurate with קצף.

The prophet Ezekiel tells of six “men” (actually angels of destruction) clad in linen who were destined to destroy the people of Jerusalem (Ezek. Chap. 9). Rav Chisda (Shabbat 55a) lists the names of these six destructive angels: Ketzef, Af, Cheimah, Mashchit, Mishaber, and Michaleh. The first three names are all alternative words for “anger,” and the second three names all denote different forms of “destruction.” The Midrash (Lamentations Rabbah 2:3) relates that of all the destructive forces in play, Gabriel was the most potent. R. Chanoch Zundel of Bialystok (in Eitz Yosef to Lam. Rabbah) explains in the name of R. Shmuel Ashkenazi-Yaffe (Yefeh Anaf ibid.) that this is because the first expression of anger used in Isa. 34:2 is קצף and that term ostensibly refers to Gabriel, making him the most formidable of the destructive forces. From this discussion, we again see that ketzefis an extreme form of anger.

However, others explain that ketzefdoes not denote anger per se, but rather is a term which refers to separation / detachment / and breaking. When Hashem warns the Jewish People of calamities that are to befall them should they forsake Him by straying after idolatry, He says, “Hashem angered against that Land… and Hashem removed them from upon their ground with anger, with wrath, and with great ketzef…” (Deut. 29:26–27). R. Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (ha-Ktav ve-ha-Kabbalah) explains that ketzef refers to the separation / detachment from God which the Jewish People will have experienced when this prophecy of exile will unfortunately come to fruition. Similarly, the prophet Joel foretold of a plague of locusts which will render the land desolate. He then describes the state of the land after the swarm of grasshoppers had had their way: “It has rendered my vineyard desolate, and my fig tree a source of despair (ותאנתי לקצפה)” (Joel 1:7). R. Mecklenburg explains that here too קצפה is an expression of detachment. 

R. Mecklenburg further notes that ketzef/קצף is phonetically related to ketzev/קצב which means to divide into pieces. For example, when Elisha cut up a block of wood, it says ויקצב עץ (II Kgs. 6:6). Similarly, R. Samson Raphael Hirsch (to Gen. 41:10)also links קצף to קצב; the word קֶצֶב denotes an allocation which essentially sets something as finite and gives it an end (effectively minimizing its potential by subjecting it to boundaries). Similarly, he explains that קצף denotes a form of anger whereby one opposes something that he deems unfavorable, and seeks to bring an end to it (or at least to minimize it).

the Vilna Gaon 

Rabbeinu Ephraim (student / associate of Ri”f) lists eight “synonyms” for כעס (anger). In contrast to the many commentators who hold that ketzefis an especially powerful form of anger, he stresses that ketzefis actually a less-intense form of anger, akin to short-lived froth. The following is a summary of his commentary: 1. כעס 2. זעם 3. אף 4. עברה 5. חרון 6. חימה 7. קצף 8. רוגז. Each has a unique import: 1. כעס is a metathesis of עכס, poison 2. זעם is anger that causes זיעה, sweating 3. אף represents “steam” emitting from the nose 4. עברה is from לעבור, crossing the limits of normal temperament 5. חרון is “fiery” anger 6. חימה is “seething” anger 7. קצף is “amounts to nothing, like the scum on the surface of a pond” 8. רוגז is anger that causes the entire body to tremble and shudder.

Similarly, the Vilna Gaon highlights the weak aspects of ketzef, namely that it represents the beginning of the subsiding of one’s anger. When describing Achashverosh’s anger at Vashti’s insubordination, the Book of Esther describes: “And the king became very angry וַיִּקְצֹף, and his anger (cheimah) burned inside him” (Est. 1:12). The Vilna Gaon explains that ketzefand cheimahrepresent different degrees of anger. Ketzefdenotes he who is visibly angry such that his anger is outwardly manifest. He compares this to the ketzefupon the waters which can be seen by the naked eye. The word cheimah, on the other hand, denotes a form of pent-up anger which remains inside a person, but is not outwardly apparent. With this interpretation the Gaon explains the question of the Talmud (Megillah12b): “why was Achashverosh so angry?” That is, since he had already reached the level of ketzef, his anger should have begun to subside (like water which reaches its boiling point, and then begins to cool off). In the case of Achashverosh, he reached that critical mass because the Bible describes him as having reached ketzef, yet instead of subsiding, his anger continued to fester inside of him (which is why the Bible then uses the word cheimah). The upshot of both Rabbeinu Ephraim’s and the Gaon’s explanations is that ketzefis a weaker form of anger (unlike the commentators cited above who understood that it is the most intense form of anger).

We suggest that the word ketzef/קצף is related to other words that contain the two-letter string צף. Menachem ibn Saruk identifies seven distinct denotations of the צף root in the Bible:

  1. Gazing or scouting (צפה in Nah. 2:2 or צופה in Song of Songs 7:5).
  2. Covering (מצפה in Prov. 26:23).
  3. Hoping and Anticipating (אצפה in Ps. 5:4, בצפיתנו צפינו in Lam. 4:17).
  4. Flour or honey which floats atop water (צוף in Prov. 16:24, צופים in Ps. 19:11, according to one understanding in Sotah 48b).
  5. Something which “swims” on the water or a current of water (צפתך in Ezek. 32:6, ויצף in II Kgs. 2:2).
  6. Chirping of a bird (המצפצפים in Isa. 8:19).
  7. Salix scouleriana (i.e. a willow tree with many branches, צפצפה in Ezek. 17:5). 

The author of Shoresh Yesha(s.v. צפה) explains that three of these usages are related to heights or loftiness. For example, צפה in the sense of gazing or scouting indicates looking down from atop a lookout post or high vantage point. Similarly, by hoping and anticipating one places his trust in God Above to bring about that which he wishes to transpire. Finally, Covering involves adding an extra layer on top of that which already exists. We may add that the word צף itself, in the sense of floating atop water, is also perforce related to heights or loftiness because those items which float are positioned at the top of the body of water (and by virtue of this elevation, they also serve to cover that which is below them).

When God drowned the Egyptians at the Red Sea, the Bible says that He הציף upon them the waters of the Red Sea (Deut. 11:4). R. Samson Raphael Hirsch comments that הציף is related to covering because He covered the Egyptians with an upper layer of water, thus burying them in their watery graves. Regarding the word צוף, R. Hirsch (to Ps. 19:11) explains that the meaning of the term is subject to dispute. According to some, it refers to flour which floats upon water, according to others, it refers to the choicest form of honey which is made from the nectar that bees gather from the flora that grow on mountains. All of these ideas—covering, floating, and mountains—are related to the concept of heights or loftiness.

The chirp of a bird is called a צפצוף (e.g. Is. 38:14), and a bird is a מצפצף. The connection between birds and the central meaning of צף is fairly plain, given that birds normally gaze and scout from great altitudes; hence the thematic link between the chirping of a bird and heights or loftiness.

Likewise, the Salix scouleriana (צפצפה) is clearly linked to the concept of heights or loftiness. The Talmud (Sukkah 34a) rules that the צפצפה is a certain type of willow which is disqualified from use as Aravot on Sukkot. The Talmud infers this from Lev. 23:40 which calls for brook willows -plainly excluding the צפצפה which is a type of willow that grows on a mountain, not near a brook. By virtue of its mountainous habitat, the Salix scouleriana is clearly associated with heights or loftiness. R. Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (Cheshek Shlomo, s.v. צף) takes this a step further and explains the Salix scouleriana is called צפצפה because it grows on the mountain and “looks down” from its lofty position towards the other types of willows which are located at lower places. In his estimation, צפצפה is also associated with staring or scouting. 

To summarize, the root צף has five interrelated meanings: Primarily, it refers to heights or loftiness. As derivatives of that meaning, צף refers to gazing or scouting which denotes looking down from a higher position, and hoping and anticipating which places one’s situation in the hands of a Higher Authority. צף also refers to a covering which is a layer added on top. And finally, צף refers to a specific property of running water that allows for certain items to float on top. These five meanings are the basis for eight other sub-roots derived from the parent צף root:

  1. Ketzef(קצף, boiling) – The nature of bubbles is to rise to the top of the water, which effectively serve as a covering for the waters below them. Isa. 54:8 tells of God concealing His presence due to a קצף which alludes to the fact that such as bubbles cover the contents of the waters below them, so does God “conceal” Himself and hide His presence.
  2. Tzafo / Tzefet(צפה/צפת, cover/candelabrum) – The prophet Isaiah foretells the eventual downfall of Babylonia and tells his listeners to prepare the ensuing festivities by “setting the table, lighting the candelabrum (צפה הצפית), eating and drinking” (Isa. 21:5). That צפית refers to a candelabrum  is found in the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:7), and its connection to gazing or scouting is obvious (a candelabrum gives off light which allows one to see better, especially the Menorahwhich is said to have enlightened the entire world). In II Chron. 3:15, the word צפת appears as a crown  or cover of the two pillars in the Temple. This is certainly related to both heights or loftiness and covering. Although Radak seems to conflate these two words by putting them in one entry in his lexicon, it seems that they are simply homonymous words with very different meanings. Two more uses of צפת appear in later sources: צפת (Safed) is a name of a city in the Holy Land, thus called on account of it appearing as a crown atop a mountain or because of the beacons that shone from that location for spreading news about the New Moon. The Hasmonean warrior Yehoshua ben Tzafita (בן צפיתא) is named so either because he was from Safed or because he burnt the palace of Herod with torches.
  3. Tzfar (צפר) – Menachem divides words related to this three-letter root into four different categories: 1) tzipporen(צפורן), found in Deut. 21:12, refers to a fingernail. 2) tzfir(צפיר), found in Dan. 8:5, refers to a goat. 3) tzipor (צפֹּר), found in Lev. 14:6, refers to a bird. And finally, 4) tzfirah(צפירה), found in Ezek. 7:7, refers to light/morning. R. Hirsch (to Gen. 7:14) writes that the first three of these meanings of צפר are related to covering. He explains that tzipporencovers one’s fingers, tzfirfocuses on the fine hair which cover a goat’s body, and tziporrefers specifically to birds that are covered in feathers. We may add that tzfirahis also related to covering as Ps. 104:2 describes God as dressing the world in light, like one covers oneself with clothes. 
  4. Tzafun / tzafon (צפן, hidden/north) – Proverbs 1:11 uses the word nitzpanahwhich Rashi and Metzudat David explain refers to something hidden. R. Saadia Gaon, on the other hand, explains that it refers to something upon which one’s gaze is directed. Interestingly, R. Pappenheim (Yeriot Shlomo, vol. 2 pg. 56a) explains that צפה which we earlier defined as staring or scouting from a high place refers specifically to a seer whose own location is strategically hidden. He can see, but cannot be seen. Accordingly, both are related to the idea of covering, as one who is hidden can be said to be covered. (See footnote for examples of using the term צפה for hidden and staring in the very same sentence). The word tzafon(north) also refers to hidden, as R. Pappenheim (Cheshek Shlomo s.v. צף) explains, this is because the sun is hidden from the northern part of the sky. 
  5. Tzefa (צפע, viper) – Jeremiah talks of God sending forth tzifo’ni (צפעונים), which are poisonous snakes which cannot be subdued by charmers (Jer. 8:17). Why is this type of snake called atzefa? The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 30b) says that there are three types of snake venom: The venom of a “bachelor” snake sinks into water, the venom of a middle-aged snake bubbles upwards, and the venom of an elderly snake floats (צף) atop the water. Yikra de-Shichvi (pg. 18) explains that the snakes which Jeremiah mentioned are called tzifo’ni because they are elderly snakes whose venom floats (צף) on the water. R. Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer inBiurei Shemot ha-Nirdafim (pg. 235) writes that the Rabbis understood that tzifo’ni was a contraction of tzaf-ani (צף-עני) because Avot de-Rabbi Nattan (version 2, ch. 43) says a tzifo’ni is called such because anybody who experiences its bits, his hair flies away (פורח=צף) and his skin becomes dissolves (like an עני poorman who experiences physical deformities).
  6. Tzapach (צפח, flour) – According to R. Eliezer (cited in Mechilta, Beshalach Parsha 5), when the Torah compares the manna to a tzapichit (צפחית) in honey, this refers to flour which is called tzapach because it floats (צף) on the top of the sieve. (Similar to what was previously cited concerning the word צוף/צופים).
  7. Ritzpah (רצפה, floor/carpet) – Although a ritzpah is that place upon which people’s feet tread, the word retzeph also related to coals (see I Kgs. 19:6). R. Hirsch (in his introduction to Isaiah)  explains the thematic link between these two otherwise unrelated uses. He explains that the power of a coal is not readily evident from the outside, because a coal can be burning hot inside, but from the outside look like it has already been thoroughly burnt.  Similarly, the word retzephappears in Song of Songs 3:10 as a way of describing how the inside of a lover’s sedan is decked with love. In that case, retzeph refers to something embedded deep inside, like something covered with many outer layers. In a similar vein, retzeph refers to a paving which covers the stone ground and upon which man’s foot treads. All of this, of course shows that ritzpah/retzeph is related to covering, י which as we already explained is also related to the heights or loftiness meaning of צף. 
  8. Shetzef (שצף) – As we already mentioned, Isa. 54:8 portends of God concealing Himself out of a שצף קצף (shetzef ketzef). We already explained that ketzef refers to anger, but what does shetzef mean? Rashi cites Targum Jonathan and Donash as explaining that shetzef means a little bit. R. Isaiah of Trani also cites this explanation, but proposes another understanding as well: He says that shetzef ketzef means during a time of anger i.e. in a current of anger. R. Baruch ha-Lev Epstein (Torah Temimah, Haftarat Noach) relates the word שצף to שטף (current, flow). 

We previously questioned the opinion of the Vilna Gaon that ketzefdenotes a weaker form of anger than does cheimah. We asked why the word ketzef would include it in the possibility for the abating of one’s anger. To answer this, we propose that the word ketzef denotes a form of anger which has various ways of being assuaged and the angered can be appeased. We find several instances in which prophecies of doom and destruction have messages of consolation and inspiration embedded inside.

For example, in Lev. 26:32 God promises to make the Land desolate should the Jews fail to keep the Law. However, Rashi (there) explains that embedded in this curse is a hint of consolation, as the land will remain desolate because its foreign conquers will not be enamored by it. Similarly, the Pesikta Rabbati (11) says that even though God intends to “pluck off” many of the Jews by killing them in retaliation for their sins, He also had allowed their population to grow exponentially like the sand which cannot be counted. 

This dual meaning (of an ominous yet bright future) is also found in conjunction with the word ketzef. Midrash Lekach Tov (to Song of Songs 2:6) says: It is a great praise of God that while He pushes away with His left hand, He brings closer with His right hand. To that effect, the Midrash cites two verses which use the word ketzef.  Isa. 54:8 says that God will conceal the Jewish People on account of His shetzef ketzef, which the consensus of commentators (cited above) understand refers to a little bit of anger, thus toning down the rhetoric. (Even if shetzef ketzef means a current of anger, it still denotes a one-time occurrence, like a wave, not an everlasting outpour of wrath.) Similarly, Isaiah again offers words of consolation when explaining that God will not be angry (ketzef) forever (Isa. 57:16)—this highlights the limitations of His anger, all the while denoting said anger. Both of these verses are included in the Haftarot of Nechama (Consolation) read in the seven weeks following Tisha B’Av. This means that ketzef does not simply denote anger, but also connotes the possibility of tempering that anger.

The word ketzef appears again as an expression of hope in the end of Lamentations. The very last verse reads: “For even if You have surely rejected us, You have been angry (ketzef) upon us very much” (Lam. 5:22). The Midrash (Lamentations Rabbah 5:22) explains the couplet as follows: If You have rejected us, then there is no hope, but if You are angry (ketzef) with us, then there is hope. As the Matnot Kehunah explains, rejection is complete and cannot be rectified, but anger on the other hand can be alleviated by appeal to He who is angry and attempting to appease Him. Alternatively, he explains that the word “very much” (me’od) is related to a set measurement (middah), as if to imply that God’s wrath is measured and is not limitless.Again, we see here that the word ketzef denotes anger, but paradoxically, it also carries a message of hoping and anticipating (which is one of the meanings of the root צף as per above).

The ketzef of anger is related to the ketzef of water in that just as the bubbles on the surface of the water are really just pockets of air, but there is nothing inside them, so is the anger of ketzef only a temporary, weaker form of anger, from which there is nothing to fear. 

We pray that God should have mercy on us and bring an end to anger and ketzef, from the most severe to the lightest. And may we merit His consolations, as the prophet says in our Haftarah: “For Hashem had comforted Zion, He has comforted all her ruins, He made her wilderness like Eden, and her wasteland like the Garden of Hashem; happiness and joy will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music!” (Isa. 51:3).

1  [מלה המשמשת כנרדפת לכעס בלשונם ז”ל בכ”מ (ברכ’ ז., ר”ה לב:, סנהד’ מח: (אמ”ש)].

2  [ל’ הכתוב היא “וּמִמִּקְדָּשִׁי תָּחֵלּוּ”, אמנם דרשוהו ז”ל (שבת נה.) כמו “מְקוּדָּשַׁי” – היינו צדיקי הדור שלא מיחו].

3  [ומעין כך פי’ גם בעל הזרע יעקב (ר’ יעקב בן חיים פייבוש, גרודנה, תקמ”ח) עה”פ אַל בְּקֶצְפְּךָ תוֹכִיחֵנִי (תה’ לח:ב)].

4  [וכך גם “חימה”, ע”ש].

5  [ויש שדייקו דברים דומים גם מפי’ ספורנו, שנראה כמקשר בין “קצף” לגלות]: זכא:ב – קָצַף ה’ עַל אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם קָצֶף; ספורנו – קצף להגלותם ולא ליסרם בארצם. ויכה:יח – וִישַׁבְתֶּם עַל הָאָרֶץ לָבֶטַח; ספורנו – וישבתם על הארץ לבטח. שלא תגלו ממנה… ועל הפך: בַּעֲוֹן בִּצְעוֹ קָצַפְתִּי (ישע’ נז:יז). שםכו:יא – וְנָתַתִּי מִשְׁכָּנִי בְּתוֹכְכֶם וְלֹא תִגְעַל נַפְשִׁי אֶתְכֶם; ספורנו – ולא תגעל נפשי אתכם. לעולם כאמרו לא יוסיף להגלותך (איכה ד:כב) וכאמרו כן נשבעתי מקצף עליך ומגער בך (ישע’ נד:ט). 

6  [כדהביא רד”ק שם]: וי”מ לקצפה לקליפה -וכ”מ כקצף על פני המים- ר”ל שיסיר הארבה הקליפה שיאכלנה.

7  [וראה גם רשר”ה לדב’ ט:ז]. 

8  [בפירושו לפסוק “ויתעבר ה’ בי למענכם” (דב’ ג:כו). דבריו מובאים גם בחיד”א (נחל קדומים, ואתחנן)]. 

9 [כפי שהדגישו הראשונים בתיאורם לקצף שעל המים]: יואלא:ז– שָׂם גַּפְנִי לְשַׁמָּה וּתְאֵנָתִי לִקְצָפָה; אבע – לקצפה – כמו קצף על פני מים שאין בו ממש; ראליעזרמבלגנצי1 – לקצפה – כקצף הנימס על פני המים. תתהערות: 1[פירוש ליחזקאל ותרי עשר (וורשא, תרע”ג מכ”י עתיק). נולד דתת”ק (1140 למנ’); מגדולי הפרשנים בתחילת המאה הי’ לאלף הה’. מבלגנצי שבצרפת, בן דורו הצעיר של רשב”ם, ואולי היה תלמידו (ספר עידן הראשונים, דף 149)].

10 [השווה  לתורה תמימה לאיכה פרק ה’, הערות מ”ד ומ”ה].

11 [וקרובה “צף” ל”טף” (בחילוף צ’ בט’)]: שבלי הלקט שבת ס’ פב – יטפו ההרים… צף וטף אחד הוא אשר הציף תרגום דאטיף.

12 [בעל הלשמוע בלמודים (ר’ יצחק לאנדא, סוכה לד.) הציע שהפסול מרמז על מדת הגאוה של הצפצפה הגבוהה לעומת הערבה הגדלה לרוב בנחל הנמוך. ויש שקישרו את השם למלה “צף”, שהיא גדלה בארץ משקה ונראית כצפה על המים (ח”ש שם בפירושו הראשון, בעל ה”אוצר” [ר’ שמואל פין, ערך ‘צפצפה’], פתח עניים [ר’ בן ציון פריצי, ערך ‘צפצפה’], בצלו חמדתי [ר’ נסים דיין, דף ע”ו]). וראה התורה והתלמוד (ר”ד גולומב (פתיח’ זעירתא למס’ ברכות, דף לט) לפירושו המחודש].

13 [היינו שהקצף “קופץ” למעלה, ואכן מצאנו כמה רמזים לקירבת “קצף” ל”קפץ” ביחס לכעס]: איכרא:א – אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן (שמות לד:ו) – אם קפץ באף רחמיו סלה, אף על גב דהוא כעיס רחמיו קרובין; עץיוסף – אם קפץ באף רחמיו סלה… כלומר ואם קצף. מקורברוך – כנראה דרש קפץ כמו קצף בהפוך אותיות. תהלח:ב – ה’ אַל בְּקֶצְפְּךָ תוֹכִיחֵנִי; זמרתישע – קצף כמו קפץ, זאת אומרת תוכחה הבאה להשיב מדרך חטאה צריך שתבא בדברים רכים, ומתוך נתינת מקום להצטדק. אבל אם באה בקפיצה ובהלה, מבהילה היא את החוטא ולא נותנת לו מקום שישוב לדרך טובה. [וראה גם דב”ר יא:י ומת”כ שם].

14 ישעיהכא:ה – צָפֹה הַצָּפִית; רשי – צפה הצפית – זקוף המנורה בב”ר צווחין למנרתא צפיתא. [ובהשאלה:  משואה / מדורה וכו’, שצופים בהן ממרחקים, שכן “צפית” מתורגם “סַכְוָאִין” – תרגומה של צפייהוראייה בכל מקום]:תי שם – אֲקִימוּ סַכְוָאִין.

15 מלביםזכריהד:ב – המנורה רומזת על אור ה’ המאיר לעולם כולו בכבודו ובעת שיזרח כבוד ה’ והלכו כולם לאורו.

16 [תרגום “וְהַצֶּפֶת” הוא “וקרונתא” – כתר ביוונית]: תרגום דה”ב ג:טו – וקרונתא הי כדמות שרגא דעל רישיה.

17 רד”ק (ערך ‘צפה’) – וְהַצֶּפֶת אֲשֶׁר עַל רֹאשׁוֹ אַמּוֹת חָמֵשׁ (דה”ב ג:טו). ונקראת הכותרת כן לפי שהיתה צפוי לעמוד.

18 [אולם, חבר “צפת” גם בערך בפני עצמו, ערך ‘צפת’, שם הפנה לערך ‘צפה’ לפירוש המלה].

19 [שיטות קמאי, סוטה מט.].

20 [ש”צפת” מוזכרת בענין המשואות שהיו משיאים להודיע על קידוש החודש]:ירושרהב:א – אילין דחמיין צפת מהו דיסבון? א”ל, רבי ביטל את המשואות, צפת למה מסבה. [וע”ש בפירושי ידיד נפש, ובשיירי קרבן בשם ה”גליון”].

21 [לוחם בזמן החשמונאים; ראה בהערות להלן].

22 [סיני (קיב, דף קעב)].

23 חיי יוסף [בן מתתיהו] (דף צו –ת”ד) – יהושע בן צפיא (נקרא גם: צפיתא [חיי יוסף, פרק כז (דף מו)]) – ראש הקנאים בטבריה, וראש העיר. שורף את ארמון הורדוס בטבריה. [ושמא י”ל ע”ש שמעשיו הובילו לשיקום המנורה הנקראת “צפיתא”].

24 [י”ל שגם הפירושים השונים של “צפירה” ביחז’ שם קשורים  לכיסוי, כדלהלן. ע’ רד”ק שפירש את דברי ת”י שתרגמה “מלכותא” ע”ש שהמלך מעוטר בכיסוי הכתר. וכן לאלו שפירשוה מלשון  סבוב (מובא בריב”ג, רד”ק), פירש בספר השהם ([ספר שרשים קדמון] ערך ‘צפר’) שהיא ל’ “חזרת הגלגל”, ובכך היא דומה ל”צפירת תפארה (ישע’ כח:ה) – כתר הסובב”, עד כאן לשונו. ואולי יש לפרש שכן האור חוזר ומסובב את העולם כל בוקר, כמו כתר המסובב ומכסה את הראש].

25  [ומצינו תיבה זו המשמשת לענין  צפיה מחד ולענין  מחבוא מאידך במשפט אחד, בלשונם ז”ל]: עירוביןנג: – הצפיננו, היכן רבי אלעאי צפון; רשי – הצפיננו – הראנו, לשון: צופיה הליכות ביתה (משלי לא). צפון – הוה מתחבא, דלא היו יודעים התלמידים להיכן היה, והיו שואלים ממנו; ערוך (ערךעלץ‘) – הצפיננו – הראה לנו, ענין צופה ורואה. צפון ענין צפנת פענח, כלומר היכן טמון. [ומלבי”ם חישב אותו כדוגמת שרש אחד המורה על ב’ הוראות שהן “דבר והיפוכו”]: יהושעב:ד – וַתִּקַּח הָאִשָּׁה אֶת שְׁנֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים וַתִּצְפְּנוֹ; מלבים – ותקח ותצפנו. יש הבדל בין צפן ובין טמן, הצפון הוא העומד במקום שאין העין רואהו (והוא ההיפוך מפעל צפה, כדרך השרשים המשמשים דבר והפוכו…) והטמון הוא המכוסה מלמעלה בכסוי או בעפר.

26 [וגם דרשו חז”ל את לשון “צפונה” כלשון  כיסויומחבוא]: דבריםרבהא:יט – מהו: רַב לָכֶם סֹב אֶת הָהָר הַזֶּה פְּנוּ לָכֶם צָפֹנָה (דברים ב:ג) א”ר חייא אמר להם אם ראיתם אותו שמבקש להתגרות בכם אל תעמדו כנגדו אלא הצפינו עצמכם ממנו עד שיעבור עולמו הוי פנו לכם צפונה, א”ר יהודה בר שלום אמרו לו ישראל רבש”ע אביו מברכו על חרבך תחיה ואתה מסכים עמו ואומר לנו הצפינו עצמכם מפניו ולהיכן נברח אמר להן אם ראיתם שמזדווג לכם ברחו לתורה! ואין צפונה אלא תורה, שנאמר: יִצְפֹּן לַיְשָׁרִים תּוּשִׁיָּה (משלי ב:ז).

27 [ר’ יוסף דוד בן שבתי, שלוניקי, תקל”ד].

28 [לר’ שלמה אהרן ורטהימר (תרכ”ה-תרצ”ה), ניו יורק תשי”ג].

29 [מובא בכתב עת המעין (כט, דף 10)].

30 [השווה]: רשי ישעו:ו – רצפה – גחלת וכן עוגת רצפים (מ”א יט) כמו עוגת רשפים ונאמר בישע’ ובאליהו בצ’: רצפה מפני שאמרו דילטוריא על ישראל זה קראם עם טמא שפתי’ וזה אמר כי עזבו בריתך (מ”א יט) אמר הקב”ה למלאך רצוץ פה שאמר דלטוריא על בני.

31 [וכן יש לה משמעות  חיבור בהשאלה בל’ חז”ל]: נגעיםיא:ט– הַשְּׁתִי אִם הָיָה רָצוּף, מִטַּמֵּא; רש – אם היה רצוף – שהחוטים רצופים זה אצל זה כעין רצפה שסמוכים זה אצל זה. [גם יש להעיר על קירבת ‘רצף’ ל’צרף’ בחילוף מיקום אותיות. תוצאת תהליך הזִכּוּך היא: דחיסת החומר הטהור ליחידה מגובשת – ומכאן ‘צרף’ בל’ חז”ל, המציינת   חיבור, כדוגמת]: מעשרותב:ה – אוכל אחת אחת, פטור. ואם צִרֵף, חיב.

32 [יתכן שמכאן גם השק העשוי מעור המכונה “מרצוף”]: כליםכ:א – וְהַשַּׂקִּין, וְהַמַּרְצוּפִין שֶׁנִּפְחֲתוּ; רעב – מרצופין – כמין שקים של עור גדולים. [וראה גם רש”י במדבר ד:י]. 

33 [ובמקור ברוך (פרק “מבוא בי”ד פרקים”, דף קנב) הביא דוגמא זו (בתוך רבים אחרים) כדוגמת חילוף צ’ וט’].

34 [וכן]: איכרא:נז – בדבר שחטאו ישראל בו לקו ובו מתנחמים. [והשווה מכות כד:, שר”ע צחק בראותו שועל יוצא מבית קה”ק. ורשר”ה דב’ לא:כז ד”ה ממרים. וכן ע’ רש”י וגור אריה לדב’ כח:כג ד”ה והיו שמיך].

35 [לפי זה, לא רק “וּבְחֶסֶד עוֹלָם רִחַמְתִּיךְ” בהמשך הוא שמנחם, אלא שנחמה זו מרומזת גם בתחילת הכתוב בקצף, המסמל את הכעס ההולך ומשתכך. וכך גם בפסוק השני, סופו “וּבִרְצוֹנִי רִחַמְתִּיךְ” כבר רמוז בראש הפסוק].

36 [הפסוקים המצוטטים מופיעים בהפטרות כי תצא (ישע’ נד:א-י) וכי תבא (ישע’ ס:א-כב)].

37 [וקרוב לכך יש לדייק גם מקרבת “קצף” ל”קצב” (שכבר העירו על כך רשר”ה בר’ מא:י, דב’ ט:ז, הכוה”ק דב’ כט:כו, שהבאנו לעיל) בהוראת  שיעורמסויים (כגון מ”א ו:כה, והשווה רש”י יונה ב:ז, רד”ק מ”א ו:ו, ראב”ע שה”ש ד:ב)].

38 [ושמא משום כך נקט הנביא בל’ “שצף” ולא “שטף”, כי לפי המשל של קצף שעל המים, ל’ “שטף” לא כ”כ שייכת בבועות!].