Pinchas: The Ultimate Destination ~ Tzvi Abrahams

Parshas פִּינְחָס

The Ultimate Destination

שָׁלוֹם: peace

שָׁלֵם: complete, whole

מְשַׁלֵם: pay

שׁלֹמֹה: Solomon

יְרוּשָׁלַיִם: Yerushalayim

לָכֵן אֱמֹר הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם
Therefore say, “Behold, I am giving to him my covenant of peace.”

 שָׁלוֹם: Peace

If one is living life correctly and is full of life, then life is a continuous movement, and apart from Shabbos there is no let-up. Deep down, we are all craving שָׁלוֹם, a place where we can just be at rest, free from the burden of life.

This craving is so universal that it is reflected in our prayers. The culmination of our eighteen-brachah tefillah finishes with the brachah for peace. So too bentching, Birkas Kohanim, and Kaddish all finish off with the request for peace; גָדוֹל הַשָׁלוֹם שֶׁהוּא חוֹתֶם כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת/how great is peace in that it concludes all brachos.

In Parshas Bechukosai, Hashem promises us that if we go in His ways, then He will give us rain in its time, the field will yield its produce, we will eat and be satisfied, and He will give us peace in our land. Rashi in his commentary to this pasuk says אִם אֵין שָׁלוֹם אֵיו כּלוּם/if there is no peace, you have nothing, meaning that you may have all the riches in the world — good food, a nice house, and all that money can buy — but if you don’t have שָׁלוֹם, then it’s worth nothing.

I once asked my rabbi why we are asking for peace when the whole point of life is to do battle with our yetzer hara. He answered by saying  that we are asking Hashem to bring close the time when we don’t have to fight anymore, the time when we have proven ourselves worthy victors, the time when we can just be with Hashem in a state of peace. When someone is about to depart from this world, we say לֵך לְשָׁלוֹם/go in peace, and since שָׁלוֹם is one of Hashem’s names, we are really telling the person to go to Hashem, the ultimate peace.

This is one of the reasons why in Parshas Pinchas the letter vav in the word שָׁלוֹם is broken, because shalom cannot be truly achieved in this world. Only in a world where Hashem is echad and His name is echad, in a world where Eliyahu HaNavi, the reincarnate of Pinchas, comes to inform us that the time has come for there to be real peace in the world. A time when the hearts of the sons will be returned to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers will return to their sons. A time when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, when there will be no more need for war.

שָׁלֵם: Complete, Whole

As long as there is Amalek in the world, the name of Hashem is incomplete. When we are uncertain if Hashem is in our lives, then we ourselves are incomplete. Shalom, as we have said, is one of Hashem’s names, so when we wish someone shalomaleichem, we are in fact wishing that Hashem be with them. This is the real shleimus, seeing that Hashem is intimately involved with our lives. Eradicating the Amalek within us leads us to this goal of shleimus.

A sure way to know if we have achieved this lofty goal of shleimus is whether the flies bother us or not. We see this with the prophet Elisha, whom the Shunamite woman recognized as a holy man because she never saw any flies around his table..

The תּורָה שֶבַּעַל פֶּה/Oral Torah ends with the following quote from Rabi Shimon ben Chalaftah:

אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן חֲלַפְתָּא, לֹא מָצָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כְּלִי מַחֲזִיק בְּרָכָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָּא הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, ה’ עֹז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן ה’ יְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם 

Hashem was not able to find a kli/vessel that was able to contain brachah for Yisrael except shalom, as it says, “Hashem gives strength to his people, Hashem will bless His people with shalom.”

The reason we go to great tzaddikim for brachos is because in order to give brachah, one first has to be complete; הַשְׁלֵימוּת מְקַבֵּל בְּרָכָה/ one’s cup has to be full and then overflowing, because brachah is the extra outpouring and goodness, which can only be reached if one has first rid himself of all his lackings. Rashi says that when Moshe gave semichah to Yehoshua, he was כְּכְּלִי מָלֵא וּגָדוֹש/like a vessel full and heaped. 

מְשַׁלֵם: Pay

Payments are called תַּשׁלוּמִים because with each payment we are completing the goal of paying off the entirety of our debt. Each one of us in a way is indebted to Hashem. He has loaned us the gift of life, and we have a lifetime to pay back the loan. Each year on Rosh Hashanah, we are checked to see if we are proceeding with the loan payments on time or if we need to make some adjustments. Are we paying our way through life? Are our fields producing a good yield in order to pay off the field owner? If not, there is a good chance that the field owner will repossess the field and the payment will be left incomplete. It is up to us. Life is compared to a period of engagement, called אֵירוּסִין, and we are the אָרִיס/the one who works the field. If we produce a good enough yield year in and year out, then the field owner will give us part ownership in the land, we will have an eternal נַחַלָה/inheritance in the land, become worthy to be Hashem’s bride, and we will graduate from אֵרוּסִין to נְשׂוּאִין/ engagement to marriage. No longer an אָרִיס, we become a נָשׁוּי.

 שׁלֹמֹה: Solomon

כִּי שְׁלֹמֹה יִהְיֶה שְׁמוֹ וְשָׁלוֹם וָשֶׁקֶט אֶתֵּן עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּיָמָיו
That Shlomo will be his name, and peace and quiet I will give upon Israel in his days.

Not only was Shlomo HaMelech so called because there was peace in his time, but also because he completed the building of the Beis HaMikdash.

David HaMelech made great preparations for the building of the Beis HaMikdash, yet it was his son Shlomo who completed it. David told Shlomo that he had wanted to build the Beis HaMikdash, but Hashem had told him that due to having shed so much blood in his lifetime fighting all his enemies, it would be inappropriate to have the Beis HaMikdash built by his hands. Rather, Hashem told him that a son would be born to him, a man of rest who would be granted rest from his enemies, and Shlomo will be his name, and He will give peace and tranquillity upon Israel in his days.

יְרוּשָׁלַיִם: Yerushalayim

The Beis HaMikdash marks the central place in the world where heaven and earth join together, the place Hashem calls הַמָקוֹם/“The Place.” It is the foundation stone from where everything spread forth; “The Place” of the adamah from which Adam was created; “The Place” where the very first korban/sacrifice was offered up by Adam HaRishon; “The Place” where we offer up our korbanos, offerings of shlamim that bring peace to the world and bring us to our own individual shleimus.  

This is why all the eyes of the world are focused on Yerushalayim, because it is the center of the Universe. It is the hot spot, and everybody wants a piece of the action.

The first time the root שלם is mentioned in the Torah is in connection with Yerushalayim, the city of peace. Yerushalayim comes from the words yireh shalom, meaning “from where peace will be seen,” i.e., where Hashem will be seen. We are all fighting for Yerushalayim, because whoever holds Yerushalayim holds the key to peace. 

In a strange way, then, we are all fighting for peace. Peace can only be achieved through struggle, because only something worth fighting for and dying for is something worth having. 

וְכָל נְתִיבוֹתֶיהָ שָׁלוֹם/all of its paths are peace. The only way to true peace is through the Torah. All its ways lead to peace, which leads us to your door, Hashem, who is peace — מֶלֶך שֶׁהַשָׂלוֹם שֶׁלוֹ.

Peace is the ultimate destination.

 לֵך לְשָׁלוֹם

1 Bamidbar 25:12.

2 Kli Yakar on ibid., 7:12.

3 Vayikra 26:6.

4 See Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer 29.

5 Brachos 10b.

6 Uktzin 3:12.

7 Divrei HaYamim 1:22:9.

8 Bereishis 14:18; מַלְכֵי צֶדֶק מֶלֶך שָלֵם, referring to Shem ben Noach, the king of Yerushalayim.

9 Mishlei 3:17.

Pinchas: United We Fast ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

United We Fast

The prophet Zechariah (Zech. 9:19) foretells of a time when the four fast days will be turned into holidays days of joy and happiness. The four fast days which he lists are defined by the month in which they are held: the “Fast of the Fourth” (i.e. the 17th of Tammuz), the “Fast of the Fifth” (i.e. 9th of Av), the “Fast of Seventh” (i.e. the Fast of Gedaliah on the 3rd of Tishrei), and the “Fast of the Tenth” (i.e. the 10th of Tevet). All of these fast days mark different stages in the destruction of the First Holy Temple and the Jews’ exile to Babylon: In Tevet, the Babylonian began their siege around the city of Jerusalem. In Tammuz, they breached the city’s walls. In Av, they destroyed the Holy Temple and exiled many Jews to Babylonia. And finally, in Tishrei, Gedaliah, son of Achikam, who was the Jewish governor over the remaining Jews in the Holy Land, was assassinated. A special fast day known as Tzom Gedaliah was declared in his memory. Other fast days of the Jewish calendar include Taanit Esther (which is observed the day before Purim) and Taanit Bechorot (which many firstborns observe on the day before Pesach). In this special installment, we will visit the concept of fasting from a linguistic perspective, shedding light on the differences between the seemingly synonymous words tzom and taanit.

The word taaanit (fast day) is rooted in the Hebrew word inui (affliction). Verb forms of the word inui are used to describe the afflictions which we are required to undergo on Yom Kippur (Lev. 16:19–21, 23:27–32, and Num. 29:7)—included in such afflictions is refraining from eating and drinking. Thus, technically the word taanit does not primarily mean “fast”, but rather denotes any type of suffering, including fasting. This word is the common word for fast days in the Mishnah and the Talmud.

The word tzom (fast) or variations thereof appear close to fifty times in the Bible and usually refer to abstinence from eating. It is probably related to the Hebrew word tzama (thirsty), as one who engages in a hunger-rite generally ends up thirsty. Nonetheless, Radak (in Sefer haShorashim and in his commentary to I Kgs. 21:9) writes in the name of his father that the word tzom literally means “gathering”. To prove this assertion, he cites the Mishnah (Chullin 4:7) that mentions the tzomet hagidim of an animal’s leg, which is the place where the different sinews converge. That gathering of sinews is known as a tzomet, lending credence to the assertion that a tzom is also a gathering. (This usage is reflected in Modern Hebrew in which the word tzomet refers to the intersection of streets, e.g. Tzomet Bar Ilan in Jerusalem is the Bar Ilan Junction).

  1. Akiva Shlomo Deutsch-Dayan of Geneva proposes differentiating between the two seemingly synonymous words by suggesting that the word tzom is Biblical Hebrew, while the word taanit is Rabbinic Hebrew. However, he rejects this distinction due to the fact that the word taanit also appears in the Bible in the Book of Ezra (9:5). Although he admits that Ezra does sometimes use expressions that are closer to Rabbinic Hebrew than Biblical Hebrew, he nonetheless rejects this explanation. Interestingly, the rarely-used Aramaic word for fasting is tvat (see Daniel 6:19 and Brachot 55a).

Instead, R. Akiva Shlomo Deutsch-Dayan of Geneva proffers the argument that the terms tzom and taanit reflect two different degrees of obligations for fasting. That is, he argues that tzom refers to a fast day which is required by the letter of the law, while the word taanit refers to a fast that is declared on an ad hoc basis or may be simply an accepted norm, but is not truly required. Thus, for example, the Fast of the Seventh is known as Tzom Gedaliah because Jeremiah prescribed that fast by prophetic fiat. On the other hand, the Fast of Esther is known as Taanit Esther because it was instituted in post-Talmudic times, and in the words of R. Moshe Isserles (1520–1572), “This fast is not obligatory, therefore one can be lenient when needed” (Orach Chaim, §886:2). Nonetheless, the fast days declared during the story of Purim are described in the Book of Esther as tzomot because at that time those fasts were obligatory.

  1. Avraham Etiel Gurwitz (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ner Moshe in Jerusalem) takes a different approach. Basing himself of Maimonides’ usage of the two words in question, he explains that the terms tzom and taanit imply two different modes of fasting. The word tzom simply represents the pledge to refrain from eating and drinking. This is the term Maimonides uses in Hilchot Nedarim (“Laws of Promises”) when referring to personal fasts. On the other hand, the word taanit refers to the acceptance of a certain day as halachicly special and whose specialness precludes eating and drinking. Therefore, Maimonides uses the word taanit when detailing the laws of the special days of fasting in Hilchot Taaniyot (“Laws of Fast Days”).

In a passage customarily read as the Haftorah on Yom Kippur morning, the prophet Isaiah mocks sinful Jews for their insincere fasting. People would fast and outwardly feign repentance, but would nonetheless continue to sin. When tragedy would continue to befall them despite their “repentance”, they would rhetorically ask G-d, “Why did we fast (tzamnu) and You did not see? We afflicted (ininu) our souls and You do not know”. Isaiah supplies the answer by asserting the inconvenient truth: “Behold, on the day of your fast, you find desires and all whom your bother [i.e., your debtors] you approach [to demand payment]” (ibid.). With this, Isaiah criticizes the hypocrisy of the fasts of sinners. Instead, Isaiah explains that G-d desires fasts which “break open the shackles of wickedness, untie the bonds of injustice, send free the oppressed, and cut off all iniquities” (Isa. 58:3–6).

  1. Yechiel Heilpern (1660–1742) cites an illuminating explication of this passage in the name of R. Moshe Di-Segovia Benveniste (c. 1540). When the Jews asked “Why did we fast and You did not see?” they used the word tzom which implies gathering or joining (commensurate with Radak’s explanation above). In this, they insinuated that they do not deserve whatever calamities G-d had wrought upon them because they were all united as one. Indeed, the Talmud (Keritut 6a) exclaims “Any fast day which does not include everyone—even the sinners of Israel—is not considered a fast day”. National unity is a necessity for effective fasting and the Jews in Isaiah’s time claimed that they met that requirement. However, Isaiah responds that this picture is a façade because in reality, the sinful Jews only feign unity with one another, but their hearts are not with each other. They pretend to love each other so that others will do for them favors, but they do not really love each other.

When the Jews claimed, “We afflicted our souls and You do not know” they essentially meant to argue that they gave up their bodily pleasures by fasting in order to better facilitate their spiritual connection to G-d. Indeed, the purpose of fasting is to dull one’s physical senses in order to sharpen and attune his spiritual consciousness. The Jews of Isaiah’s time pretended that this was their intent in fasting, but Isaiah reveals otherwise. He charges that in reality they declared fast days with ulterior motives: they needed spare time from their regular schedules in order to harass those who owe them money and pester them for payment. In other words, they did not declare fast days for altruistic, noble purposes, but for their own convenience.700_mgt5mzashz1kvdcbjpgiuon21rkbgy1h.jpg

Pinchas: An Expansive Lesson on Constriction – Yehoshua Steinberg


Numbers 25:17-18 – Torment (צרור) the Midianites and smite them; for they tormented you through their conspiracy that they conspired against you.


R’ Samson Rafael Hirsch interprets the root  ‘צרר’ to mean contraction, compression or restriction of power  (this is also implied by Onkelos, who renders צָרוֹר as אָעֵיק, an Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew word “מעקה” –  a rooftop enclosure/fence). R’ Hirsch’s definition would also appear to fit many other words that contain the letters “צר”. However, let us first broaden the definition somewhat, in order to include the following related meanings: pressure/constriction/compressing, tension, overcrowding/congestion, sucking/drawing, thrust/impulsion, apprehension/detention/prohibit, incision, closure/lockdown, watching/guarding, trapping, surrounding/encirclement, collection/combination. In light of these meanings, let us now consider the following words containing the letters “צר”:

  1. Otzarאצר (treasure)– collection/lockdown/guarding (of valuable items). An אוצר  is a store of valuable items which are concealed and locked up in a guarded place. In the view of Yeriot Shlomo (2:53a) and R’ Hirsch (Deut. 28:8), the “א” is superfluous and the primary root is simply ‘צר’/’צרר’. This also seems to be implied by the Sages’ teaching in the Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 3:25): “Both the souls of the righteous and the souls of the wicked ascend Above. However, the souls of the righteous are entered into the ‘אוצר’, as Abigail stated to David through the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh): May my lord’s soul be bound up (צרורה)  in the bond of life  (I Samuel 25:29).” Thus, by inferring from the word צרורה  that his soul will be placed in the אוצר, we see a hinted association between the wordsאוצר  and צרורה. Rashi also seems to linkצרר  and אצר  in a different context inTaanit  23a, where the Gemara states that during an era when grains of barley grew to historically large sizes, “צררו”  some of them as a sample for later generations, and Rashi defines צררו  as “they tied them (in a bundle) and stored (אצרו)  them.”
  2. Batzarבצר – collection/enclosure/guarding (of grapes). The root’בצר’   has three primary definitions: a) collection of grapes (i.e., the vintage – see Lev. 26:5; Deut. 24:21); b) strength/reinforcement (i.e., fortified walls or cities – see Num. 13:19, 28; Jer. 15:20); c) prevent/withhold  (seeיִבָּצֵר  [withhold] in Gen. 11:6 and Job 42:2; בַּצֹּרֶת  (shortage/hunger) in Jer. 17:8)]. However (as suggested by Yeriot Shlomo 2:61b), all three definitions have in common the aspect of gathering  and   enclosing, as a) the grapes of the vintage are gathered and preserved, b) the fortified cities are built for the purpose of allowing masses of people to gather therein, and c) an entity restrained from movement and access is akin to one confined in a fortress.
  3. Chatzar חצר (courtyard)– gathering/collection (in a guarded site). Shoresh Yesha (entry חצר) states that ‘חצר’  is like [1]‘עצר’  (halt/hold) in that it holds and shelters the object that is held and enclosed in it. Similarly, he suggests that a trumpet is called a “חצוצרה”  because it is an instrument that is used to muster people on the day of a battle[2].
  4. Atzar עצרdetain/enclose/gather (both for positive and negative purposes).
  5. a) We find this root used in the sense of’אסר’ (imprisonment) in Avoda Zara (71a), where Rashi interprets לעוצר  as לאצור  (to collect) [see also  RSR Hirsch (Gen. 16:1-2), who equates עצר  with ‘אסר’ and other phonetically related words][3].
  6. b) The root ‘עצר’ also appears in the Aramaic terms for collecting grapes of a vineyard and storing their extracts in a vat – with the wordתֶאֱגֹר (“gather” grapes) translated as תְעַצְרוּן  (see Targum Yonatan to 28:39), and the word גַּת  (“winepress”) translated as ‘מַעֲצַרְתָּא’  (see ibid to Judges 6:11).
  7. c) In Daniel 10:8, the phrase עָצַרְתִּי כֹּחַ is rendered by Rashi as “I gathered strength.”
  8. Tzor/Tzarar ‘צור’/’צרר’ According to Radak, the many definitions that are derived from these similar roots (some of which are enumerated below), are all related in some way to one or more of the following: gathering/enclosing/watching/restricting/compressing. [According to Machberet Menachem, the root in all these words is ‘צר’.]
  9. a) hard rock (צּוּר) so called because it comprised of highly compressed (an extreme form of gathering) material (see Exodus 17:6).
  10. b) fortification used both for a fortified city (מִבְצָר Numbers 32:36), and the siege of a fortified city (תָצוּר 17:6; בְּמָצוֹר 28:53). This usage involves enclosure and guarding.
  11. c) pressure/distress (צַר) [Psalms 119:143] – physical and/or spiritual enclosure and
  12. d) trouble/distress (צָּרָה) [Psalms 10:1] – enclosure and pressure of a primarily emotional nature.
  13. e) messenger/agent (צִיר) [Isaiah 18:2; 49:14, Josh. 9:4] –restricted to follow the straight and narrow path.
  14. f) door hinge (צִיר) [ 26:14] – restricted to its precise and narrow point of connection.
  15. g) harass (צרר) [ 25:17, 33:55] – pressure and restrict  someone’s freedom[4].
  16. h) trouble/distress (צָּרָה) [Psalms 118:5; 1:3] – enclosure and pressure of a primarily emotional nature..
  17. i) bundle of money (צרור) [ 42:35] – a bound package that is closed and guarded.
  18. j) boundary/border (מיצר) [Talmudic term – see M. 107a]  – limits and restricts  freedom.
  19. Patzar ‘פצר’ (badger/urge) – The Biblical commentators define it simply as a multitude, and indeed, Rashi to I Samuel 13:21 explains that הַפְּצִירָה פִים means a multi-grooved file, so called because of its many grooves. However, most of the Scriptural occurrences of the root פצר  relate particularly to incessant pleas/requests  [e.g., Gen. 19:3, 9; I Sam. 15:23; I Kings 2:17, 5:16]. Radak (entry פצר) concludes that they all refer to an effort to persuade or even force someone to act in a given way; thus it involves heavy verbal pressure to change someone’s mind. Likewise, Rabbeinu Yeshaya, in his commentary to I Samuel, explains that the term הַפְּצִירָה פִים  derives from the fact that the file is pressed hard onto the utensil and rubbed hard against it in order to sharpen it.
  20. Yatzar ‘יצר’ (forming) – involves pressure/compress/force together/fasten together (physical and abstract).

The root ‘יצר’  denotes the combination of various existing bodies/thoughts to form a unified entity/program, be it in the physical domain (a creation – see Gen. 2:7) or in the abstract (the inclination in man’s heart, called a יֵצֶר  (see Psalms 33:11). Thus, ‘יצר’  is related to the root ‘צר’/’צרר’  and all the others, as it involves the consolidation and tying together of various components to form one strong body[5]. Indeed, Yeriot Shlomo (2:53a) suggests that ‘יצר’  derives from ‘צר’, which denotes the pressing together of separate parts to form a unified entity that can exist on its own.

[We should also note that there is an example of ‘יצר’  (in Zech. 11:13) that has the meaning of ‘אוצר’  (a sealed and guarded treasure) according to Radak. Also, the Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 2:1:11) links ‘יצר’  to ‘צייר’  (an artist), stating that the Creator is like an artist, Whose world is His beautiful painting. It likewise links ‘יצר’  to ‘צור’  (hard rock), implying that God is referred to as ‘צור’  because He is the ‘יוצר’  (Creator).]

  1. Natzar ‘נצר’ (guard) – involves protect/bind/fasten. One guards an object by enclosing and/or binding it.

Both Menachem and Yeriot Shlomo (2:53a) see the word as deriving from the 2-letter root ‘צר’. According to the latter, ‘נצר’  (like ‘אוצר’, a treasure) denotes a strong, unbreakable binding that protects and guards. It is for this reason that a twig that is planted for the purposes of growing a tree is called a נֵצֶר  (see Isaiah 11:1, 60:21), since it is guarded and protected until it can become a tree.

  1. Katzar ‘קצר’ (shorten) – related to pressure/congestion, as follows. Shortening an object restricts and contracts it. Indeed, the verse: for the mat will be too short (קָצַר)  for stretching out (Isaiah 28:20), is interpreted by Rashi to mean that God will send an enemy to pursue and oppress Israel. Thus, this shortening  is indeed linked to stressful force and oppression.
  2. Tzarav ‘צרב’ (cauterize) – involves contraction/pressure/compression through the heating of the skin. According to Radak (entry צרב), צָרֶבֶת means the cauterization of the skin. However, Rashi, in his comments to the verse, it is the צָרֶבֶת of the inflammation (Lev.  13:23), explains that צָרֶבֶת  means the contraction of the skin that occurs as a result of the cauterization. [Although Rashi  also refers to it asרגיעת עור , the irritation of the skin (see Job  7:5), Sefer Zikaron (commentary on Rashi, Tunis 1507) [6] explains that the two are related, as the irritation of the skin by the heat dries it out, causing it to contract and attain folds].

Now, if we consider this process, the contraction of the skin causes the different areas to combine and form separate units, namely, the skin folds. This might then explain the connection between ‘צרב’  and ‘צרף’ [7] (refine – see discussion in No. 11 below), which denotes the cleansing of impurities that leads to the unification of all the untainted components.

  1. Tzaraf ‘צרף’ (refine/combine)– contract/pressure/compress/gather/combine via heating of metal.

The meaning of this root in Scriptural Hebrew is always the refining and purification of metals from its impurities through fire (e.g., Isaiah 48:10; Malachi 3:2). However, in Aramaic, it means to combine/join (vis. Targum Yerush., Num. 24:24). I would like to propose that the two definitions are indeed linked, since the aspect of combining/joining  is the natural outcome of the refining/purification that we call soldering. That is, the metal is heated up to its melting point, thereby causing the expulsion of its impurities. However, the spaces that are created by the removal of the foreign matter are filled immediately with the purified molten metal, bringing about an absolute joining and unification of the purified elements. [We might also add that by re-arranging its letters, the root צרף  becomes פצר  (badger/urge/pressure – see No. 6 above). As we explained above,  פצרinvolves trying to persuade someone to do something by causing pressure and stress through incessant verbal pleas. Likewise, צרף  denotes using pressure and stress to cause the expulsion of impurities.

  1. Tzarad ‘צרד’ (dry)– to contract/gather/combine by drying out. This is a Talmudic word not found in Scripture. We find it both in the context of food (צָרִיד – Maaser Sheini 2:4), and in the context of a sound being dry, or hoarse (צָרוּד – R.H. 27b), both of which are translated by the early commentators as dry. Dryness causes contraction and shriveling (discussed in No. 10 above). In Scripture, dryness and shriveling take on similar meanings, such as the reference to dry grapes (i.e., raisins) as צִמֻּקִים in I Samuel 30:12, or the mention of shriveled breasts  שָׁדַיִם צֹמְקִים)) in Hosea 9:14, which Metz. Tzion defines as dry breasts. We also find in the Talmud (Shab. 37b) that overcooked food is מצטמק, and Rashi explains that it shrivels from dryness.
  2. Tzarach ‘צרח’ (shout ) – stress/crowding/gathering caused by cries to gather in the face of enemy danger. Radak (entry צרח), writing in the name of his father, defines the term יַצְרִיחַ  (Isaiah 42:13) as a call to arms in the face of an approaching enemy[8]. The term צְּרִחִים  (I Samuel 13:6), based on Rashi’s definition as a fortress built from interlaced wood, might be related through its being a narrow (צר)  hideout. And according to the definition of Ohalei Yehudah (entry צרח), as a narrow  (צר)  and tall tower that is not penetrable by the oppressor  (צר), the link is even clearer.
  3. Tzarach ‘צרך’ (need)– pressure/distress/stress/tightness are all common symptoms of a poor person in need.

There is but a single appearance of this root in all of Scripture (II Chron. 2:15); it is however, commonly used in Aramaic. The word pauper (אֶבְיוֹן)  is translated by Targum Yonatan as צְרִיכָא, needy (see Deut. 15:11, 24:14). This is also the meaning of the invitation we issue to כָּל דִּצְרִיךְ  (all the needy) in the Passover Haggadah: כָּל דִּצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח.

  1. Tzara ‘צרע’ (illness/leprosy) – pressure/distress/stress/tightness are likewise symptoms of an ill person.

Our Sages (Tanchuma Metzora 2) expound the word ‘צָרוֹת’  (plural of צָרָה, tribulation) as צָרַעַת (leprosy/illness). [Ibn Ezra also links the word צִרְעָה  (hornet-swarm) to צָרַעַת, seeing it as a general term for illness.] They also indicate (Arachin 16a) that one is afflicted with צָרַעַת  as punishment for his stinginess, which is referred to as צָרוּת עַיִן, “narrowness” of eyes  (i.e., he is unwilling to share his wealth with others).

  1. Tzara ‘צרה’ (liquid extract/syrup/sap)– suck/absorb/push are all actions involved in producing liquid extract.

The word צֳרִי  (derived from the root צָרָה), which appears several times in Scripture (e.g., Gen. 37:25), is defined in the Talmud (Shab. 26a) as שְׂרָף, the sap that is extracted from a certain tree. [It is interesting to note that the term שְׂרָף  is very similar in sound to the English word “syrup.” Likewise, Rashi  says that it means גומ”א  in Old French, which resembles the English word “gum,” which is indeed a gelatinous substance extracted from certain plants].

How is this naturally produced? The system of liquids that sustains trees is one of the amazing wonders of God’s nature. In contrast to a person, for example, who is created with a heart which continuously pumps his blood throughout all parts of his body, there is no similar mechanism in trees. The explanations for this phenomenon vary, with some scientists acknowledging that they lack a comprehensive explanation for the mechanics of the overall system (especially in giant tree such as the Sequoia). What is clear however, according to all the views, is that the liquids are transported through artery-like passageways, through a combination of suctioning/pulling from above that is initiated by the evaporation of moisture from the leaves on the one hand, and a pushing/pressure from the water absorbed by the roots below on the other hand.

Whereas the verb שׂרף  (burn) in Hebrew denotes heat and the byproducts of fire, the verb שׂרף in Aramaic takes on the meaning of גמיעה  (sipping) [same as the Scriptural גמיאה, as Rashi notes in Gen. 24:17], מציצה  (sucking), and שאיבה  (drawing) [see Zohar 3:154b; Rashi  to Ber. 61b], as noted by Rashi  to Av. Zarah 29b and Nazir 36b, and Tif. Yisrael to Av. Zarah 2:5.

Thus, to summarize, the צֳרִי  is the juice that drips and is drawn out of the tree. [Perhaps we can suggest that Rashi’s French definition of גומ”א also stems from the Hebrew “גמיאה”, which means drawing and sucking, which is how the שְׂרָף  is transported throughout all the branches of the tree]. Also, the term שְׂרָף  is attained by association from the wondrous system of drawing and pressing  that we have just described.

[As noted above, the branch of a tree, or a twig that is planted so as to grow a tree, are referred to as a נֵצֶר  (see Isaiah 11:1, 14:19, 60:21). Perhaps we can propose that this name also derives from its primary sustenance, the צֳרִי/שְׂרָף. For the word צרי  is similar to the word טרי, which also indicates moisture in Scripture (see Jud.  15:15; Isaiah 1:6). Moreover, both the root ‘צר’  and the root ‘טר’  can mean preserving  in Scripture, as in, Preserver (נוֹצֵר)  of Kindness (Ex. 34:6), and, You shall not preserve (תִטוֹר)  a grudge (Lev. 19:18). Thus, the branch is named after the primary sustainer that guards and preserves its life in all its forms, namely, water. [See also our essay in Parashat Tetzaveh on the meaning of the root ‘טר.]

Closing Prayer: From “between the distresses” (בין המצרים, the woe-filled 3-week period leading up to the Temple’s destruction), let us call out to G-d, that He transform it speedily to a festival and holiday, and He shall lead us from the straights (מיצר) to wide-open relief, and we shall say before Him songs of praise in His Sacred Courtyards  (חצרות)speedily in our days, Amen.



[1]  [בחילוף אותיות אחע”ה].

[2]  [בדומה לשתי ההוראות שרש ‘זעק’: 1. צעקה (ירמיה נ:מו), 2. קיבוץ ואסיפה (יהושע ח:טז)].

[3]  [גם רשר”ה (בר’ טז:א-ב) השווה אותם, וצירף עוד מלים קרובות (בחילוף אותיות אחע”ה, זסשר”ץ)]: עצרני ה’ מלדת – ‘עצר’ קרוב ל’אצר’, ‘אסר’, ‘אזר’: לקשור כחות ולהחזיקם כאחד.

[4]  [רד”ק (שרשים, ערך ‘צרר’) כתב ש’צרר’ ו’צור’ הם “שני שרשים בענין אחד”, כנ”ל, וענינו פירש בערך ‘צור’. וזו לשנו שם]: יעמדו סביבותיה במצור עד רדתה מרעב.

[5]  [‘יצר’ נדרש מלשון “צייר” ו”צור”]: קהר ב:א (יא): ויצר ה’ אלהים את האדם מה ת”ל אשר יצר (בר’ ב:ח), אלא הצור הוא צייר נאה, כביכול מתגאה בעולמו. [וכן “צור” נדרש מל’ “צייר”]: מגילה יד. – אין צור כאלהינו אין צייר כאלהינו… הקב”ה צר צורה בתוך צורה ומטיל בה רוח ונשמה קרבים ובני מעים. [וגם שם “צור” (כינוי לאלוקים, בהשאלה מן האבן החזקה ומגובשת) נדרש מלשון ‘יוצר’]: ויקרא רבה כג:יב – צור ילדך תשי (דב’ לב:יח) – התשתם כוחו של יוצר. [וראה י”ש ב:נג.-נג: להרחבות בכל הקשרים הללו].

[6]  [ספר זכרון על רש”י מסביר את הקשר בין ‘רגיעה’ ל’כיווץ’]: ספר הזכרון על רש”י1 – נרתע העור לאחור ונכווץ, מלשון: עורי רגע דאיוב. [כך פרש”י שם באיוב]: איוב ז:ה – עוֹרִי רָגַע; רש”י – רגע – נקמט כמו רוגע הים (ישעיה נא). יר’ לא:לד – רֹגַע הַיָּם; רש”י – רוגע הים – מנידו ומרתיחו ונעשה קמטים קמטים כמו: עורי רגע (איוב ז). 1[לרבינו אברהם בר’ שלמה הלוי בקראט (מגולי ספרד. חובר בתוניס, שנת רס”ז. מובא בספר י”א מפרשי רש”י)].

[7]  [בחילוף אותיות בומ”ף].

[8]  [רד”ק (ערך ‘צרח’) בשם אביו. והשוה לשתי ההוראות של ‘זעק’ (צעקה וכינוס)].