Tazriah: The True Measure of a Man ~ Tzvi Abrahams

הַר שֵׂעִיר: Mount Sei’ir

שְׂעִיר: goat

שְׂעוֹרָה: barley

שֵׂעָר: hair

שְׂעָרָה: tempest

חוּט הַשַׂעַר: hairsbreadth

וְשֵׂעָר בַּנֶּגַע הָפַךְ לָבָן/And the hair turned white.1One of the telltale signs of a metzorais that the hair of the infection turns white. The roots have to turn white, and not the ends, symbolizing that the infection is more than skin-deep.

הַר שֵׂעִיר: Mount Sei’ir

The Torah first mentions hair with respect to Eisav. Eisav is known as the hairy one from הַר שֵׂעִיר — literally, the hairy mountain — whereas Yaakov is known as the smooth one. If someone has too much hair, people may look at him in a funny way, as if he looks like a gorilla. The more hair a person has, the more he resembles an animal. An abundance of hair is typically animalistic — this was typified by Eisav, the archetypical animalistic man. Eisav, otherwise known as the yetzer hara, is the beast that lies within man.

Yaakov, on the other hand, is called חָלָק/smooth — the less hair, the less of an animal. Smoothness has connotations of eloquence, gliding, an ease of movement. Hairs can be restrictive, becoming knotted and getting in the way. Yaakov was אִישׁ תָּם/simple and uncomplicated. Yaakov the tzaddik, when connected to Hashem, is the one who has a smooth ride, as we see in the pasuk:וַיִשָׂא יַעַקֹב רַגְלָיו/and Yaakov raised his legs, where Rashi says that his heart lifted his legs, which made the way easygoing.

Eisav was also known as the hairy one because he made the hair of men stand on end.2

שְׂעִיר: Goat

וְלֹא יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד אֶת זִבְחֵיהֶם לַשְּׂעִירִם אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם
And they will not sacrifice further to the goats/demons that they lust after.3

The hairy goat is symbolic of the hairy one, i.e., Eisav, who is symbolic of the Satan. The Egyptians and many other satanic groups would offer up sacrifices to the dark side, where the se’ir/goat was typically the choicest of sacrifices because of its connection to Eisav.

The goat plays a central role in the Yom Kippur service in the guise of the scapegoat — again in connection with the Satan, in order to appease him.

שְׂעוֹרָה: Barley

Barley is like hair in that hair-like strands grow out of the head of the barley. Barley also resembles hair in that unlike a bush or a tree, which branches out, each stalk has its own root and grows out of the ground individually. Hair, as we will see later, is very much a sign of individuality. All said and done, we could ask that wheat is no different from barley in that it has hair-like strands and grows individually.

As we are comparing the minchahofferings, which are all brought from wheat except for a select few brought from barley, the defining difference is that barley is specifically assigned to animal fodder, whereas wheat is designated for human consumption. The Torah hints to this idea with regards to the minchahoffering of the Sotahwoman, which specifically is brought from barley and not wheat, symbolizing that she is being accused of behaving like an animal.4

שֵׂעָר: Hair

אָמַר ר’יוֹחָנָן הַמַעַבִיר שֵׂעָר בֵּית עֶרְוָה לוֹקֶה מִשׁוּם לֹא יִלְבַּש גֶבֶר שִׂמְלַת אִשָׁה
Rabi Yochanan says that whoever removes the hair of his private areas is lashed for transgressing the sin of a man wearing a woman’s clothing.5

Rabbeinu Bechaya says that the reason women don’t have beards is in order to maintain a separation between men and women.6This is one of the reasons for the transgression of not shaving theפֵּאוֹת/corners of the head and beard, so as not to nullify one of Hashem’s designated signs of manliness. Rabbeinu Bechaya continues to say that in men, there is a connection between the זָקָן הָעֶלְיוֹן וְהַזָקָן הַתַּחְתּוֹן/hair of the head and hair in the private areas, known as the upper and lower beards. A eunuch has no beard, because since the upper and lower areas are connected, once he has lost his manliness down below, he also loses his manliness above.

In this respect the hair represents manliness, while a lack of hair represents femaleness. The mane of the lion very much symbolizes his manliness, compared to the smoother look of the females.

The measure of a man, his entry into adulthood, is not his bar mitzvah, but rather it is the growth of two hairs in his lower beard.7A person who does not show any signs of adulthood is still considered a child, even at the age of twenty.

שְׂעָרָה: Tempest

Hair, along with the nails, is the only part of the body that continues to grow throughout one’s lifetime, as opposed to the rest of the body that stops growing after a person reaches full maturity. The hair, so to speak, has a mind of its own. In this respect, the hair is symbolic of untamed wildness, and is a statement of freedom. The hippy generation of the 1960s typified this rebellious tendency to pull away from restrictive living — to just go with the flow. Like the wildness of the hair in stormy weather, being tossed and blown in all directions, this was very much their way of living, “any way the wind blows.”8

Regarding the מְצוֹרָע, the Gemara in Mo’ed Katanquotes the pasuk:וְרֹאשׁוֹ יִהְיֶה פָרוּעַ,9and says
וְאֵין פְּרִיעָה אֶלָא גִידוּל שֵׂעָר, saying that when the head is exposed, it is referring to the growing of the hair.10Therefore, the growing of the metzora’s hair signifies the exposing of his sin, i.e., of rebelling against Hashem.

The shaving of one’s hair symbolizes conforming to the rules, like soldiers who are no longer independent and relinquish control to a higher authority.

Part of the purification process of the metzorais the shaving of the hair of his entire body. As the hair is very much symbolic of one’s individuality, the shaving of one’s hair represents the stripping away and nullification of the ego, that now he is ready to reenter the כְּלַל/society.11The growing of one’s hair in the case of the אָבֵל,מְצוֹרָע,נָזִיר/mourner,metzora, or naziris in order to help a person reflect on his individual situation without having to worry about his appearance.

TheSotahwoman’s hair is also exposed, exposing her sin of secluding herself with another man. Here, the covering of a married woman’s hair symbolizes her subjugation to her husband.

Many people mistakenly think that the reason women have to cover their hair is to make them look less beautiful, and because of this faulty view they see it as hypocritical that some women look even more beautiful when wearing a sheitel, seemingly defeating the objective of covering the hair. However, a more accurate reason for the coving of the hair is to show subservience to her husband. The hair, which symbolizes freedom, is now covered up, signifying to her husband that she is no longer free. She is now tied down to her husband, as the brachahof the kiddushinsays: וְאָסַר לָנוּ אֶת הָאַרוּסוֹת/a betrothed woman is off-limits.12All of her individuality is nullified as she allows herself to merge into the oneness of being with her husband. A woman who remains attached to her hair and her individuality causes a separation from her husband that could lead to marital disharmony.13

For a similar reason men also cover their hair to a degree by wearing a yarmulke and hat, showing fear of the King and subservience to a Higher Force.

חוּט הַשַׂעַרָה: Hairsbreadth

The Gemara says that the wicked, when facing their final judgment, will be shown the yetzer hara, which will be compared to the thickness of a חוּט הַשַׂעַרָה/hairsbreadth, and they will wonder why they were unable to overcome such a fine line.

As we reach our final destination, our hair loses its color, begins to thin, and eventually falls out. All of this is to humble us and to help us lose our individuality. For only when we lose our individuality are we able to enter the כְּלַל/the oneness of being with Hashem.

In conclusion, hair is a defining quality. It is the measure of a man, both in terms of the dividing line between childhood and adulthood and the dividing lines between male and female. Hair is very much an expression of one’s individuality. The growing of one’s hair can symbolize rebellion, or it can symbolize a time to focus on one’s individuality. Hashem has set clear guidelines to define who we are. In order to be victorious over the hairsbreadth of the yetzer hara, one must conform to these guidelines. Whoever crosses over these lines is considered a misfit in the sense that he does not identify himself with the regimental rules of belonging to Hashem’s army. Like with any army, one has rules that absolutely must be obeyed. Each regiment has its own identifying marks, where there is no place for misfits, and therefore this rebellious individual, like themetzora, is banished to the outside of the camp.

The guidelines are ultimately there for our benefit, to help us lose our individuality — to lose our hair, so to speak — and becomeחָלָק/smooth like Yaakov, so that we can smoothly enter into the oneness and take our חֵלֶק/portion in Olam HaBa. This is the true measure of a man.

1Vayikra 13:3.

2Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishis 130.

3Vayikra 17:7.

4Sotah 14a.

5Nazir 59a.

6Vayikra 19:27.

7So too entry into adulthood for a woman is measured by two hairs.

8Heard from a shiurgiven by Rabbi Ephraim Kahana.

9Vayikra13:45.

10Mo’ed Katan 15a.

11Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to Vayikra 14:8.

12Where the root אסר has the dual meaning of both forbidden and tied.

13Rabbi Ephraim Kahana.




Tazria/Parshas HaChodesh: Old Month versus New Month ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

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This Shabbat we read Parshat HaChodesh, the last of four special Torah readings before Pesach. Parshat HaChodesh establishes Nissan as the first of the months of the Biblical Year. This is especially germane because this year we read Parshat HaChodesh on the day of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. So we discuss the first month of the year on the first day of that month. In this essay we will discuss two Hebrew words that both mean “month” — chodesh and yerach. We will strive to find the difference in their etymology and how/why they are used in different contexts.

Although some say that chodesh is Aramaic, while yerach is Hebrew, others offer a more sophisticated approach. The Malbim and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) provide a penetrating insight as to the etymology of the word chodesh. They explain that the primary meaning of the word chodesh is not “month” but rather “beginning of the month.” In this way we find that the word chodesh appears in the Bible when one would otherwise expect the phrase Rosh Chodesh to appear (see Num. 28:14, I Sam 20:18, and Isa. 1:13). The word chodesh, therefore, primarily refers to the concept of chadash (“new”) or chiddush (“novel” or “renewal”), and specifically denotes the novelty of the month. That chodesh also refers to the idea of a “month” is only a secondary, borrowed meaning.

What, then, does the word yerach mean? Malbim explains that the word yerach simply denotes a period of thirty days — regardless of whether or not those thirty days represent an astronomical event related to the moon. However, in truth, the word yerach is actually related to yareach (“moon”), whose lunar movements help us define the duration of a month. Based on this we may posit that while chodesh denotes the beginning of the month, yerach denotes the entire month as a whole.

Rabbi Aharon Marcus (1843-1916) writes that the word yerach is related to the Hebrew word oraiach (“path”) and to the Aramaic word itrachish (“it happened”). He does not explain the thematic link between these words, but to me it seems fairly clear. The word chodesh is related to the idea of “new,” and alludes to G-d’s role in administering the world, in which He introduces new occurrences that are outside of the normal system of nature. We call these events “miracles”. For this reason, the first of the months is Nissan, whose very meaning is “miracles” because the Exodus from Egypt, one of the greatest miracles of all time, happened then. In general, we use the word chodesh colloquially, because we wish to focus on G-d and His awesome miracles. On the other hand, the word yerach is less commonly used because it is related to the word for “path” and does not connote anything “happening” beyond the regular system of nature. When we refer to a month with the word yerach, we refer to time running its course in a natural way, as if to say that it just “happened,” seemingly without G-d’s miraculous intervention.

Rabbi Hirsch offers another way of differentiating between chodesh and yerach which fits with our modelHe argues that the word chodesh denotes the idea of a month as simply a unit of time (measured by the amount of time it takes the moon’s light to disappear and reappear). In this way, the word chodesh is transcendental, or abstract. On the other hand, he explains, the word yerach connotes the month as a vehicle for maturation. That is, the word yerach implies a physical manifestation of the passage of time — more specifically, in the growth of produce. According to this understanding, the word yerach refers to a month in a very tangible or physical context, a month that is bound to the rules of nature.

Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe (1530-1612), the author of the Levush, writes that the custom is to refer to the month on a divorce document (a get) as a yerach, and on a marriage document (a ketubah) as a chodesh. He explains that this is because the word yerach is associated with being sent away, geresh yerachim (Deut. 33:14), while the word chodesh is associated with something new, and marrying a woman is called “taking a new wife” (Deut. 24:5). (It is also unfortunately true that many marriages end when the novelty wears off and a couple is left in a stale rut. The hope that this will not plague the newlyweds is reflected in the word chodesh that appears in the ketubah.)




Tazriah: Of Lepers and Grasshoppers ~ Yehoshua Steinberg

The root גבח appears in all of Scripture only in פרשת תזריע, in Chap. 13 of Leviticus. It appears here in two different contexts, “Leprosy” (צרעת) of Man and that manifesting itself on clothing. Regarding that of man we find: Leviticus 13:40-41 – If a man loses the hair on [the back of] his head, he is קרח (bald). He is clean. And if he loses his hair on the side toward his face, he is גבח (bald at the front). He is clean. Regarding that of clothing, Scripture states: Ibid. 47, 55 – [And as for] the garment that has the lesion of צרעת tzara’ath upon it… You shall burn it in fire. It is a penetrating lesion on the worn or new [article].

 

One might have reasonably supposed that, despite the different circumstances of the verses (man, garment), the word גבח itself would maintain a single meaning. But, Onkelus (reflected in the English translation quoted here) renders the word differently for each situation. Regarding tzara’ath of Man, the root גליש is used (we will be examining the meaning of גליש). But for that of an article of clothing, he uses the term חדתותיה (newness).

 

Regarding human tzara’ath, Rashi (13:41) stresses the baldness of the head called גבח is located in the front of the head. In contrast, no allusion to “front” or “back” is mentioned concerning garments; only that קרח means a worn item and גבח denotes a new one. Rashi explains the disparity: Rashi (13:55) – concerning the explanation and translation [of these terms], the simple meaning is that קרח means “old” and גבח means “new.” It is as though it were written, “[It is a lesion on] its end or its beginning,” for קרח means “back” [i.e., at the end of the garment’s life, when it is old,] and גבח means “front” [i.e., the beginning of its life, when it is new]. This is just as is written, “And if [he loses hair] at the front of his head, [he is bald at the front גבח]” (verse 41). And גבח refers from the crown toward his back. In other words, the Torah used the words גבח and קרח as analogues of their main meanings, already defined in the context of tzara’ath of Man – back and front. Rashi adds the reason the Torah uses these words specifically here: and because of the midrashic explanation, that this language is necessary for a Halachic exposition here [גזירה שוה, a link between two seemingly unrelated passages through common terms, thereby inferring the laws of one passage from the laws of the other, as follows]: How do we know that if a lesion on a garment spreads [throughout the entire garment], it is clean? Because [Scripture] states גבח and קרח in the context of [lesions that appear on] man (verse 42), and here, in the context of [lesion on] garments, [Scripture] also states גבח and קרח; just as there [in the case of lesions on man], if it spread over the entire body, he is clean (verses 1213), so too, here, [in the case of lesion on garments,] if it spread over the entire garment, it is clean (San. 88a), Scripture adopts the [unusual] expressions גבח and קרח.

 

Aside from these occurrences in Lev. 13, the root גבח is found only in the Talmud (Chullin 65b), in a discussion of kosher grasshoppers[1]. Rashi explains the word גבחת here in accordance with its meaning in Lev. 13, namely baldness[2]. In contrast, he great medieval Aramaic lexicographer, the Aruch, holds the Talmudic usage denotes elevation, i.e. that it refers to a bulge on the insect’s back, analogous to a camel’s hump[3]. Some link גבחת in the context of garments to elevation as well, due to the closeness of the root גבח to גבה (height)[4].

 

In analyzing this dispute between Rashi (baldness) and the Aruch (hump), we mention once more that since the root גבח appears only in Lev. 13 in all Scripture, it stands to reason that the Talmudic usage should derive from the Scriptural meaning. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that the Talmudic meaning is based on tzara’ath of Man, since (as per Rashi above) the meanings of גבח and קרח in the context of garments are only analogues of the primary meanings, namely their usage relating to tzara’ath of Man. It is curious though that regarding tzara’ath of Man we found two main attributes: baldness and the front/back “slope” of the skull. Why does Rashi in the Talmud omit the front/back aspect; and why does the Aruch omit the baldness attribute?

 

A clue to Rashi’s reasoning may be found in his commentary on Song of Songs: Song 4:1 – your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead.  Rashi – that streamed Heb. שגלשו, that they became bald. גבח is rendered by the Targum as גלוש. When the animals descend from the mountain, the mountain becomes bald and bare of them. Rashi usages no less than three synonyms in explaining the word גלשו, namely: ‘קרח’, ‘גבח’ ‘מרט’, unequivocally underscoring that the meaning is “baldness” (of hair, or in this case, of sheep) – all based on the rendering of גבח as גלוש.

 

I would suggest that the dispute between Rashi and the Aruch arises from differing interpretations of the Midrash in this verse: Song Rabba 4:3 – your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead… this means, the mountain from which I tore away I made a standing witness (gal’ed) to the other nations. And what was this? The Red Sea. R. Joshua of Siknin said in the name of R. Levi: It means, the mountain from which you streamed away. When a woman’s hair grows thick she thins it (galshin). Etz Yosef comments that means she shaves/cuts her hair. I suggest that this is the source of Rashi’s interpretation that גלישה means thinning, shaving, leaving bare.

 

The Aruch, on the other hand interprets this Midrash differently, explaining גלשין גלשין as meaning that she braids or ties her hair, the better to manage it. Now, in order to braid or tie hair, it must be gathered together, quite different from shaving and cutting. The Aruch therefore appears to understand גלישה regarding hair as analogous to gathering stones in order to create a mound or monument. And this is precisely the interpretation of the Targum found to this verse, cited by the Aruch elsewhere[5], which homiletically interprets the verse as referring to the sons[6] of Jacob establishing a mound/monument. This would then explain the Aruch’s reading of גלישה as a mound/elevation, from which derives the interpretation of the grasshopper’s גבחת to mean an elevation on its back. Again, all connects back to Onkelus’ rendering of גבח as גלוש.

 

One may further suggest that Rashi and the Aruch differ on the interpretation of the beginning of the above-cited Midrash as well: goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead… this means, the mountain from which I tore away I made a standing witness (gal’ed) to the other nations. And what was this? The Red Sea. According to the Aruch (mound), what would be the connection to the Red Sea? Perhaps for this reason Rashi interprets Rabbi Levi’s גל as an expression of [7]גילוי (baring, stripping), i.e. baring the seabed for the benefit of the Israelites – a truly eternal testimony/”monument” to G-d’s power. The Aruch, on the other hand could counter that the common usage of גל (pile, mound) is very relevant in relation to the Red Sea as well, as Scripture states in that connection: And with the breath of Your nostrils the waters were heaped up; the running water stood erect like a wall (Ex. 15:8). The waves (גלים) were thus piled up, not unlike a mound of rocks!

 

These two disparate meanings of גל are actually two sides of the same coin. For instance, in the act of rolling a protective bolder from the mouth of a well, one reveals the underlying spring. However, the bolder continues to occupy space wherever it is moved to, thereby covering another position. Thus, one action actually results in two opposite consequences.

 

The two interpretations of גלישה may be understood in a like fashion. In Rabbi Yehoshua’s version of Rabbi Levi’s metaphor, in the course of the woman’s haircut the discarded hair inevitably will occupy space elsewhere, which she is generally not interested in preserving[8]. Similarly, the essence of the event of the Red Sea is indisputably the resulting dry bed, not the incidental mounds of waves. Thus, according to Rashi, the “standing witness” of the event was the bared (גלוי) seabed.

 

We can now understand too why Rashi emphasizes the aspect of baldness in the context of the גבחת of the grasshopper in Chullin, in contrast to those who emphasize the element of an elevated mound. Since גלישה in the book of Song means shaved/denuded/bared and גלוש is the Targum of גבח in Leviticus, perforce the Sages’ usage of the term in relation to the grasshopper must be referring to this primary meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] [הגמרא מציינת את סימן הגבחת, אבל סימן זה מובאת רק לצורך הבחנה בין מין למין, ולא שהיא מהווה סימן טהרה לעצמה, שהרי יש כשרים עם גבחת וכשרים בלי גבחת, כך פרש”י]: חולין סה: – ואין לי אלא הבא ואין לו גבחת… אתה דן בנין אב משלשתן: לא ראי ארבה כראי חרגול; רשי – הרי אתה דן כו’ לא ראי כו’ – שיש בזה מה שאין בזה ועל כרחך אין סימני הטהרה תלוי בזנב ובגבחת לא ביש לו ולא באין לו שהרי יש כאן אין לו וכשר, ויש לו וכשר.

[2] [וכשיטתו]: רבינו גרשום חולין סה: – מאי גבחת שממורט בפניו. מאירי (שם): כל שיש לו גבחת ר”ל שראשן מרוט.

[3] [וכן]: רבינו גרשום חולין סה: – [“כתוב בגליון”] פירוש גבחת גבהות בשדרה שלו כעין גמל. האשכול (סימני בהמה, סכג): וחגבים… בין יש לו גבחת כעין גמל ובין אין לו.

[4] אוצר טוב (מכי – תוס’ ריד), דף 16: בקרחתו היינו בגד ישן… קרח בנפול שערו. ובגבחתו היינו גבהותו, שח’ וה’ מתחלפין, והוא בעת שמגביה שער ואז הוא חדש עדיין. [ולכך הסכימו גם פרשנים אחרים]: תוי”ט נגע’ יא:יא – וגבחתו אלו חדשים. שהמוכין עדיין גבוהים עליהם ויהי’ בגבחתו כאילו כתיב בגבהתו. קרבן אהרן (תזריע – פ’ נגע’ ה:טו): בגבחתו כאילו כתיב בגבהתו בה’, ירצה בגובהתו, שעדיין המוכין הגבוהים… בחדשים. מזרחי ויקיג:נה – ו’בגבחתו’ משמע… חדש, שהמוכין גבוהין… כאלו אמר: בגבהתו, דח’ וה’ מתחלפין, זהו מה שפ’ קצת מפר’; [וע’ מלבי”ם (תזריע ס’ קמה), מעשה רקח לרמב”ם טומאת צרעת יב:ט].

[5] ערוך (ערך ‘גבשוש’ –תד): תל קטן של עפר… שֶׁגָּלְשׁוּ מֵהַר גִּלְעָד (שה”ש ד:א) תרגם: כבנוי דיעקב דלקטו אבנין ועבדו גבשושיתא ס”א גלשושיתא בטורא דגלעד.

[6] [כך פרש”י]: בר’ לא:מו-מז – וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְאֶחָיו לִקְטוּ אֲבָנִים… וַיַּעֲשׂוּ גָל… וְיַעֲקֹב קָרָא לוֹ גַּלְעֵד. רשי: אחיו – הם בניו.

[7] [כדוגמת]: גַּל עֵינַי וְאַבִּיטָה (תה’ קיט:יח).

[8] [ומי שעיקר חפצו דווקא בשיער המתגלח יתדמה לכאורה לחופר בור ואינו צריך אלא לעפרה שהיא מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה ובכך פטור מדאורייתא בשבת].

Yehoshua Steinberg Complacency is tantamount to complicity; Serenity is prerequisite to accomplishment.