Titzaveh: Do You Make The Cut? ~ Tzvi Abrahams

Titzaveh

Parshasתְּצַוֶה

Do You Make the Cut?

חָרַשׁ: craftsman

חַרִישָׁה: plow

חַרָשִׁים:wise men

חֵרֵשׁ: deaf person

חָרַשׁ: Craftsman

מַעֲשֵׂה חָרַשׁ אֶבֶן פִּתּוּחֵי חֹתָם תְּפַתַּח אֶת שְׁתֵּי הָאֲבָנִים עַל שְׁמֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
Through the work of a stonecutter, you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the Bnei Yisrael.1

The Torah uses the word חָרַשׁto describe someone who is skilled in the art of cutting materials.חָרַשׁ עֵצִיםis a carpenter, חָרַשׁ בַּרְזֶלis an ironsmith, and here, חָרַשׁ אֶבֶןis a stonecutter, specifically of precious stones.

חַרִישָׁה: Plow

חַרִישָׁה, the action of preparing the ground, is the first process in a long production line of sowing, harvesting, gathering, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking until finally we make the cut, i.e., in those freshly baked challos, which fill our palates with that distinctive and delicious taste of Shabbos. 

The first time the root חרשappears in the Torah is in connection with Tuval Kayin, describing him asלֹטֵשׁ כָּל חֹרֵשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת וּבַרְזֶל/an artisan in the making of all types of cutting tools made from copper and iron.2Included in these implements were כְֵּלי הַמְחַרֵשִׁים, the cutting tools to plow the land.

חַרָשִׁים:Wise Men

Someone who is מְחַדֵד/sharp is able to silence people with his words. We see this idea in the following pasuk:וְיוֹעֵץ וַחֲכַם חֲרָשִׁים,3referring to חֲרָשִׁיםasבַּעַלֵי מַחְשָׁבָה/wise men who understand the secrets of the Torah. They are calledחֲרָשִׁיםbecause notonly are their minds able to cut through to the depths of thought, moreover, when they open their mouths, they make everyone else dumbstruck.

חֵרֵשׁ: Deaf Person

On the other hand, a deaf person is considered by the Torah to have noדַעַת/understanding. He is grouped together with the שׁוֹטֶה וְקָטָן, the insane and a young child, who similarly have no דַעַת. Unlike the חָרַשׁ/craftsman, who is able to cut things, and unlike the חַרָשִׁים/wise men, who are able to cut things with their minds, the חֵרֵשׁ/deaf person is incapable of cutting things with his mind. (The type ofחֵרֵשׁthat the Torah talks about here is usually the one who is deaf and dumb from birth.)

Now that we have defined our terms, let’s go a little deeper.

Hashem has given us all a field, so to speak, to cultivate. As we have mentioned elsewhere, this world is a period of אֵרוּסִין/engagement where we are the אוֹרֵס/sharecropper, one who doesn’t actually own the field, but is given the opportunity by the landowner (i.e., Hashem) to work the land and take a share in the produce.

Life is by no means easy, and to toil the land is excruciating work. Nevertheless, we are אָדָם/man, from the אַדָמָה/ground, meaning that we have a deep innate connection with the land. Our task is to make the land produce. הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָהבְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ /those who sow with tears will harvest with joy.4

Hashem has given us various tools to help us with our task. We have כְּלֵי מַחַרֵישָׁה/cutting tools to plow the field, and we have oxen to pull the plow. The Torah also aids us in how to get the best out of the land. We are told not to plow the field with an ox and donkey together, not to plow and harvest on the Sabbath, and to let the field lie fallow on every seventh year. 

לֹא תַחֲרֹשׁ בְּשׁוֹר וּבַחֲמֹר יַחְדָּו/do notplow a field with an ox and donkey together.5
One of the reasons given for this prohibition is because one animal istahorwhile the other is tamei. The Torah is hinting to us of the idea that some things just don’t mix.

The deaf person is like an unplowed field. Someone who does not have the tools to cut the ground is unable to sow the field and will therefore not produce. One may well ask that in the analogy of our being Hashem’s sharecropper who needs to produce, what purpose does a deaf person have in the world? He is in fact פָּטוּר/exemptfrom all mitzvos. One way to answer this question is with the perspective of gilgul neshamos, where the reincarnated soul needs to return to do some kind oftikkun. Invariably, the souls who come back into people who are פָּטוּרfrom mitzvos, like someone with Down syndrome, are said to be tzaddikimwho only need a minor rectification.

Man is like a tree; we grow from within the אַדָמָה.In order to succeed and take root, we need to be able to cut through. The trade of the Jew is the Torah. Just like there is the craft of aחָרַשׁ בַּרְזֶל/ironsmith and a חָרַשׁ אֶבֶן/stonecutter, so too our craft is the Torah; we are the חָרְשֵׁי הַתּוֹרָה — the Torah cutters. Our job is to plow through the Torah and reveal Hashem’s hidden light.

My first ever job was a diamond cutter/polisher in Hatton Garden, London. I was indeed a חָרַשׁ אֶבֶן/stonecutter!There are many different ways that one can cut a diamond — emerald cut, marquis cut, heart cut — but the most valuable cut is the round brilliant cut, so called because it optimizes the facets in such a way that it produces the most light and brilliance. In the same way, our task is to cut through the Torah in such a way that we not only reveal Hashem’s light, but we make it brilliant. There areשִׁבְעִים פָּנִים לַתּוֹרָה/seventy different ways to cut the Torah, and since there are only fifty-seven facets to a brilliantly cut diamond, it makes the Torah a cut above, as we say with reference to the Torah in אֵשֶׁת חַיִלthat“her value is far above pearls.” The Torah is brilliant; we just have to find the right way to cut it. 

The tools that Hashem gives us to cut the Torah are our ears, as we sayשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל/Hear Yisraeland אִםשָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ/if you will surely listen then the land will give its produce. אָזְנַיִםnot only mean ears, they also mean handles. Just like the handles of aכְּלִי/vessel allow one to מַחַזִיק/hold it, so too the Torah is an עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ/tree of life to those who are able to grasp it. The ears are what allow us to grasp it, to get a handle on it. If, however, we don’t listen, then the Torah falls on deaf ears, we are said to be מִתְחַרֵשׁ, we make ourselves deaf.6

The Torah gives us the ability to cut through the bedrock of life and gives us the upper cut to rise above life’s challenges. Without the ability to cut through life, we are left with just a superficial way of seeing the world and we miss out on the true עוֹמֶק/depth and the beautiful richness of life.

We can now expand our understanding of the prohibition not toplow a field with an ox and donkey together. Just like it is forbidden to plow a field by mixing a tahoranimal and tameianimal, so too the Torah is hinting to us the idea not to plow the field of Torah with one ear tuned into the truth while the other ear is still listening to the shmutz. The Torah is temimah/pure and not in the mix. Similarly, the pasukthat states: נִירוּ לָכֶם נִיר וְאַל תִּזְרְעוּ אֶל קוֹצִים/plow your field and do not sow upon thorns7means that if one sows the field without first plowing it to get rid of the קוֹצִים/thorns, then it will all be in vain. In the same vein, in order to return to Hashem, we first have to remove all the disgusting things in our life — שִׁקוּצִיםbeinglashonשֶׁקֶץ.8

And this is why we eat hamantaschen on Purim. Hamantaschen represent the ears of Haman, which symbolize the hearing of impure knowledge from the sitra achra/the dark side.9This hearing of tameiknowledge confuses us to the point where we ask ourselves: “Is Hashem really within us?” We become deaf to the true reality. This is the very reason for the mitzvah of remembering Amalek and “placing it in the ears of Yehoshuah” — davkahwith our ears, in order to counteract the hearing of false da’as/knowledge of impure ideology and instead eradicate it by tuning our ears in to the correct channel, to listen (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל)and to only have ears for the Torah so that we can attain a clear, unfaltering da’asof knowing that Hashem is really within us.10

It is all well and good to be a חָרַשׁ אֶבֶן/diamond cutter — in fact, it sounds quite glamorous — but take it from me, the real glamour and brilliance comes from being a Torah cutter, for without being a Torah cutter, one may as well be a deaf diamond cutter.

So the choice is in our hands. If we want our field to produce spiritual fruits, then we need to make the Torah our trade and be חָרְשֵׁי הַתּוֹרָה/Torah cutters. We have the power to choose what kind of חרשwe want to be; it is the difference between being cut or remaining rough and uncut — between being deaf or alive!

1Shemos 28:11.

2Bereishis 4:22.

3Yeshayah 3:3.

4Tehillim 126:6.

5Devarim 22:10.

6See Eruvin21b, s.v., אזנים לתורה.

7Yirmiyahu 4:3.

8See Tosfos to Pesachim107b.

9See Bnei Yissachar, Adar 3:2.

10See Aish article on Haman’s ears, http://www.aish.com/h/pur/t/dt/48944556.html.




Titzaveh: Hats and Belts ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

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Hats and Belts

The Torah teaches us about the special garments to be worn by the Kohanim (priests) while performing the ritual duties in the Tabernacle/Holy Temple. The regular Kohen wears four such garments: pants, a belt, a hat, and a tunic. The Kohen Gadol (high priest) wears an additional four articles of clothing: a breastplate, an apron, a robe, and a head-plate (see Mishnah Yoma 7:5). Nonetheless, some explain that the Kohen Gadol’s clothes slightly differ from the regular Kohen’s in that they do not wear the same type of hat and, according to some opinions, they do not wear the same type of belt. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss three words found in the Bible that mean “hat” and three words which mean “belt”.

The Torah calls the hat of a regular Kohen a migbaat, while the hat of the Kohen Gadol is referred to as a mitznefet. However, the common word in the Bible for “hat” is—like in Modern Hebrew—a kova. So what is the difference between these three seemingly synonymous words for “hat”? Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249–1310) writes that the word migbaat is closely related to the word kova (the former’s root is gimmel-bet-ayin and the latter’s root is kaf-bet-ayin) because the regular Kohen’s hat is indeed a simple hat. On the other hand, he explains that the Kohen Gadol’s hat is known as a mitznefet because it is made from an especially long cloth which the Kohen Gadol wraps (tzonef) around his head. The Vilna Gaon also explains that a migbaat is a pre-sewn hat, while a mitznefet is wrapped by its wearer.

Others explain that both a migbaat and mitznefet are wrapped around the wearer’s head, but the mitznefet also reaches his beard. Abarbanel explains that the word migbaat is related to the Hebrew word givah (hill) because it had two mountain-like humps on top and would be tied with a string underneath the Kohen’s chin. According to Maimonides, the Kohen Gadol’s “hat” simply surrounds the perimeter of his head, but does not cover it, while the regular Kohen’s hat actually covers his head.

Rashi and Nachmanides maintain that migbaat and mitznefet were both the same type of hat and are indeed synonyms. Interestingly, Josephus writes that the regular Kohen wore a “Masnaemphthes” (an Anglicization of mitznefet), which he describes as a cap that does not come to a point (i.e. is not conic), nor does it encircle the entire head. Rather, he explains, this crown-like bonnet covered most of the Kohen‘s head, but not all of it. According to this view, we can argue that even though migbaat and mitznefet refer to the same type of hat, they recall different elements of said hat. The word migbaat denotes the hat-like form of the item, while mitznefet specifically focuses on the honor that wearing such a hat brings (see Tosafot ha-Rosh to Yoma 71b who writes that mitznefet is related to the word tznif which alludes to the “honor” of wearing a royal diadem).

If we analyze all six appearances of the word kova in the Bible (I Samuel 17:5, Isaiah 59:17, Jeremiah 46:4, Ezekiel 27:10; 38:5, and II Chronicles 26:14), we will notice that it is always part of a warrior’s dress and possibly should not be translated as “hat”, but rather “hard hat” or even “helmet”.

Now, we turn our attention to the three words for belt. The Torah refers to the belt used by all Kohanim as an avnet. But there are another two words that also mean “belt”: chagor/chagorah and aizor. Malbim explains that the word avnet refers to a belt used for ritual purposes; therefore, it is fittingly used in references to the belt of the Kohanim. Interestingly, the Mishnah Berurah writes (Orach Chaim 46:8) that the word avnet could refer to pants, not just to belts! The word chagor (in male-gendered form) or chagorah (in female-gendered form) is a general term used to refer to anything which covers the circumference of one’s body whether it encircles his torso, heart, waist, or feet. R. Aharon Marcus (1843–1916) argues that the root of the word chagorah is chug which means circle (and may be related to the word chag, “holiday”, because on festival celebrants dance in a circle). Aizor is specifically a belt which surrounds one’s waist. Such a belt is generally fastened tightly, so the girdling of an aizor is also used metaphorically to refer to the performance of a feat that requires notable strength. Because an aizor is a belt specifically associated with physical strength, it is only found in the Bible as something worn by mighty men, not by women or children. Interestingly, in post-Biblical writings, the word sinar refers to a special belt that Ezra instituted should be worn by women and was something like a chastity belt.




Titzaveh: Guarded Closure, Hopeful Beginning ~ Yehoshua Steinberg

Titzaveh

Exodus 28:15-17 – You shall make a choshen of judgment… and you shall fill into it stone fillings, four rows of stones.

 

The word טור is found in Machberet Menachem (quoted hundreds of times in Rashi’s commentaries), under the root טר, which he defines as סדר – order. In addition to this word, Menachem includes three other sections under the same root. One of these is the verses dealing with שמירה –guarding: Nachum 1:2 – The L-rd… guards wrath for his enemies. Jer. 3:5 – Will he guard a grudge for ever?

 

In the same guarding section, Menachem included two other topics. The first is a shooting target (Job 16:12, Lam. 3:12). Here the commentators explain that one must guard against distraction when seeking to hit a target (i.e. focus).

 

The third topic in this guarding section of טר is the jail called a חצר המטרה (Jer. 32:2). This too is connected by dint of the need to guard the inmates.

 

In another section of טר, Menachem includes the word טירה, a castle or tower. This word is explained in the Sifrei (Matot 157) as the place of the idolatrous priests, who guarded their traditions carefully.

 

Menachem’s final section in טר is comprised of the word טרי, today used to mean fresh, but defined by the commentators as moist. The Midrash (Gen. Rabba 98:13) says it refers to a three-day time period (during which the object in question presumably could retain [guard] its moistness).

 

All four sections of טר are therefore connected to guarding of one sort or another. But we see a number of different nuances of guarding, as follows: 1. Retaining resentment 2. Focusing/concentrating 3. Arresting/gripping/closing  4. Keeping traditions 5. Moisture –all these meaning are borne by the root טר. Another meaning to be added to these is order- סדר, the Targum of טור, the rows under discussion in Exodus 28:15-17.

 

One of the Biblical sources for the term סדר is the word שדרות in II Chron. 23:14. The commentators explain the word as referring to orderly military/police formations used to guard against infiltration of undesirables and/or escape of prisoners. So too were the stone rocks ordered in rows embedded in the חושן resembling military formations, guarded from falling and one being mixed up with the other.

 

This leads us to another טר derivative, the word שוטר/police. The word שוטר is translated by the Targumim throughout the Tanach (e.g. Ex. 5:6) with the Aramaic root סרך, gripping/holding – one of the nuances of guarding mentioned above. (See also Rashi Jer. 2:23 who connects סרך with the Hebrew שרך – tying).

 

The Torah (Gen. 25:1) tells us that following Sarah’s death Abraham took a wife named קטורה (root: קטר, Aramaic cognate of (קשר. Rashi explains that this was Hagar, who “tied herself up” – guarded herself from marrying any other man, hoping to reunite with Abraham.

 

Another טר derivative is the word אטר, used in Ps. 69:16 to mean closing/plugging. A left-handed person is called אטר יד ימינו (Ju. 3:15), because he appears to be guarding his right hand, closing and arresting its usage.

 

From closing and guarding we come to the root עטר, from which is derived עטרת, the crown that encloses and guards the head (see Shoresh Yesha, entry עטר). The word is also used as a verb for enclosing and entrapping in I Sam. 23:26. In the Mishna (Keilim 5:3) it is used to denote an enclosure of an oven used to retain and guard heat from escaping.

 

One may suggest a connection to the Aramaic term טרק, which means to close (vis. Brach. 28a). A טרקס is a wall or gate, i.e. an enclosure (Yoma 51b, Brach. 35b). Slightly farther afield is the word טרקלין, which originally meant a castle (see Rambam on Eruv. 6:6) – the most guarded of buildings.

 

Returning to the סדר/order nuance of guarding, we come to the word חוטר – a stick. This is listed amongst the tools of the judge in enforcing his rulings (Rif and Ein Yaakov Sanhed. 7a), i.e. to ensure law and order and guard against criminals. In Isaiah 11:1 the Messiah’s advent is described as a חוטר, which Rashi explains as his royal staff, but one which is also used in his role as judge (described in verse 4).

 

Rain/מטר is another טר derivative and can be explained simply as being the primary agent of life-guarding moisture (as per Menachem above). It can also be a reference to the fact that one generally has no choice but to wait patiently for the rains to arrive, there being no natural way to ensure or even hasten its arrival. This, Targumna (Gen. 20, p. 133) suggests based on the fact that שמירה bears the meaning of waiting as well (vis. Rashi to Gen. 37:11, and Ps. 130:6).

 

The final טר derivative is the word פטר, which actually means opening (vis. Ex. 13:2) – exactly the opposite of the meanings of טר heretofore discussed. However, the word in this case refers to the first born, the “initial opening of the womb,” the womb having been hitherto sealed closed (see Ararbanel Ex. 13:1). The initial פ here is the פה/portal – the opening of the closed/guarded womb, bringing new life to the world.

 

We here close our discussion of טר – guarded/closed with a word ironically denoting opening. But this is the way of Torah, closing one chapter and immediately opening a new one, continuing on to new challenges and new hopes. May we merit to be judged by the חוטר of the scion on Jesse and the judgement of the טורי אבן speedily in our times.