Vayishlach: Angels and Agents ~ Reuven Chaim Klein

A “messenger of G-d” refers to either an angel or a prophet, but what about a “messenger of Jacob”? When Jacob sent a message of peace to his older, belligerent brother Esau (Gen. 32:4), the Torah says that he sent Esau malachim (“messengers”). While the word malach in Hebrew may mean “messenger”, it also means “angel”. In fact, the Midrash (Bereishet Rabbah §75:4) records a disagreement amongst the Sages whether Jacob sent angelic messenger to his brother, or whether he sent human messengers. (Rashi adopts the former stance.) Nonetheless, there is another Hebrew word which means “messenger”— shaliach. Although the word shaliach never appears in the Bible, it is clearly a conjugation of the Biblical root word shlach (“send”). In this essay we will explore the difference between the two ostensibly synonymous words — malach and shaliach.

Radak in Sefer HaShorashim writes that the root of the word malach is LAMMEDALEPHCHAF and that the letter MEM at the beginning of the word is not part of the root. This understanding is somewhat perplexing because there is no other Hebrew word with such a root. Nonetheless, archeology has proven Radak correct. Texts found at the site of the ancient city Ugarit (in modern-day Lebanon) are written in a Semitic language (known by linguists as Ugaritic) that closely resembles Hebrew. In that language the root of the verb for “sending” is not SHINLAMEDCHET (e.g., shlach) like it is in Hebrew, but the root is LAMMEDALEPHCHAF, the exact root which Radak claims is at the heart of the word malach!

In an approach similar to Radak’s, Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (1740-1814) writes that the root of the word malach is LAMMEDCHAF — lech, “go”. According to these understandings, the difference between malach and shaliach is not really in the roots of the words, because “go” and “send” are essentially the same. The difference, then, must lie in the nature of the mission on which the messenger is sent.

To this effect, both Rabbi Pappenheim and the Malbim explain that the word malach is only used to denote an agent charged with doing the type of mission which the sender would do himself. It is not necessarily a sign of subservience to be a malach. The malach is sent only on prestigious assignments and, in a way, attains a position of honor. The Malbim adds that a malach is not required to report back to whoever sent him.

Based on this primary meaning of the term, malach is also applied to angels whom G-d sends for various important undertakings, some of which involve commandeering the laws of nature to perform miracles or to relay messages to prophets. In fact, Gersonides, throughout his commentary to the Bible, consistently tries to explain that every malach mentioned is a prophet, not an angel (see also Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed 2:6 for his view of “angelogy”.)

Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) writes that the word malach is related to the Hebrew word malachah (“creative labor”) because a malach is an agent — whether angelic or not — who carries out a certain task on one’s behalf. Though the comparison between these two words is not readily understood, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) offers a penetrating insight: The word malachah denotes the thinking man’s ability to bring his ideas into reality through creative work, while malach is the personification of the thinking man’s ability to use a proxy to realize his ideas. He also writes that the word malach sometimes refers directly to G-d because He constantly engages in the malachah of creating the world. According to this approach, shaliach simply denotes a messenger, while malach denotes the messenger’s role in replacing the one who sent him.

Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum of Lissa (1760-1832) explains that a shaliach is somebody who is given a choice about whether or not he will accept his mission and — should he choose to accept it — when he executes his mission he is acting of his own volition. Sometimes, G-d employs such angelic forces to do His bidding and, based on their different tasks, they are given different names. Two categories of such angelic forces include a malach, which carries out benevolent missions, and a mashchit, whichcarries out malevolent missions. According to this approach, a malach is a type of shaliach.

Another, less common, word which appears to be synonymous with shaliach is tzir. This word appears fewer than ten times in the Bible. The Vilna Gaon (in his commentary to Proverbs 13:17) implies that a tzir is specifically an agent who had been used many times (e.g., a professional courier), thus slightly differentiating between that word and shaliach. The truth is that the word tzir is always used to refer to a messenger in a diplomatic setting (e.g., an envoy, ambassador, or attaché). Rabbi Pappenheim explains that the word tzir refers to the idea of attaching distant (political) entities. He finds other examples of words related to tzir that refer to the concept of connection. The Malbim explains that a tzir is a messenger whose job is not simply to relay a message for his dispatcher, but also to report back to him.

In Aramaic, there are two words that mean “sending”: shagar (whose primary meaning seems to be “flow”) and shadar. The Modern Hebrew word shagrir (“ambassador”) is derived from the word shagar. Shadar entered the Hebrew vernacular in a conceptually-related way as a contraction of the phrase, shaliach de’rabanan (“emissary of the rabbis”). That term was used to describe rabbinic envoys charged with collecting charitable donations on behalf of public institutions. In Modern Hebrew the word shadar means to broadcast a message in the context of radio and/or television.

Vayishlach: Quiet, Deaf Men Planning to Plow! ~ Yehoshua Steinberg


בראשית לד:ה– וְיַעֲקֹב שָׁמַע כִּי טִמֵּא אֶת דִּינָה בִתּוֹ וּבָנָיו הָיוּ אֶת מִקְנֵהוּ בַּשָּׂדֶה וְהֶחֱרִשׁ יַעֲקֹב עַד בֹּאָם.

“Yaakov heard that he [Shechem] had defiled his daughter Dinah, while his sons were with his cattle in the field; Yaakov kept silent [וְהֶחֱרִשׁ] until their arrival” (Genesis 34:5).

Leshon hakodesh has a number of words that denote silence, such as”שקט”, “דומה”, “חשה” “הס” and “שתק”. The root חרש” also indicates silence, but it is a difficult root to pin down, due to its diverse meanings. We will now try to grasp the core meaning of this unique root, and why the Torah chose to employ it here, concerning Yaakov’s silence in the wake of the tragedy of Dinah.

The various meanings ofחרש are:

  1. חרישת קרקע– Plowing the soil. A מחרשה is the farming tool called a plow.1
  2. אטום אוזן– Deaf.2
  3. שתיקהSilence.3
  4. אומן– A craftsman.4
  5. מחשבה/הכנה– Thought; preparation.5
  6. חריתה– Engraved.6
  7. מין יער– A forest.7

Commentators and grammarians differ as to the common denominator among these diverse meanings. Aside from Yeriot Shlomo, they focus only on certain selections from the above list.

  1. Rashi – core meaning isthought/planning, which he connects in Mishlei3:29 to the idea of “plowing”:

“Do not devise (אל תחרוש) evil agasint your fellowman.” Rashi equates לחרוש withלחשוב, adding that “devising” is directly connected to this word’s meaning as plowing. “Just as the plow makes room for the planting of seeds, so too the deviser of evil prepares a place in his heart for evil schemes and how he will carry them out.” In Iyov4:8 the term “חֹרְשֵׁי אָוֶן” –sowers of injustice– appears. Rashi defines this as “those who plan out evil in their thoughts, like one who plows and prepares a field before and after planting.”

It remains to be explained why Rashi did not relate to other definitions of חרש, such as a deaf person or a forest. This will be addressed later.

  1. Shoresh Yesha(entry(‘חרש’: The core meaning is silence: 1- a deaf person generally cannot speak either. 2- a craftsman, who can carve out or otherwise produce any form. All of the wise of heart who do creative work go about their work in silence. 3- A חורשהis a quiet forest, far from the activities of people.
  2. RSR Hirsch (Exodus 4:11): The core meaning is plowing of the land. Related to this are 1- deafness, and 2- thought. “חורש means to plow and till the soil, and a deaf person is simply one who ‘plows’ the field of his thoughts, only this field, the source of his thought processes, does not receive seed from the outside world.
  3. Ho’il Moshe8(Judges 16:2): The core meaning is “severing.” This idea is connected to 1) a craftsman, and 2) a forest (see Exodus 31:5). A craftsman cuts wood to use in his work, and a forest9is where one cuts wood for use in heating or building.

As to Rashi’s reason for emphasizing the connection between thought and plowing, while omitting other definitions such as craftsman, it appears Yeriot Shlomopicked up on this difficulty. Like Rashi, Yeriot Shlomoconnects plowing the soilwith thought/planning, but he adds the meaning of craftsman as a sub-category withinthought/planning, because a craftsman cannot produce even the simplest article without first planning it. However, the definitions “deaf” and “forest” are more loosely connected to the core meaning. Although quiet ideally accompany thought and planning, handiwork preparation can be accomplished without it. There is no quiet like the quiet experienced by a deaf person. Similar to this is the quiet one finds in a thick forest. The following is a condensation of YS’s words:

Yeriot Shlomo(2:36b) – The core meaning is preparing/readying (similar to plowing the soil, which readies the field for planting, and borrowed from the idea of thought/planning is the definition, silence): 1. The prime meaning is plowing the soil, which is the development and mastering of the soil, preparing it for planting. 2. Thought: So too one can “plow” in an analytical sense…just as plowing is about preparing a field for planting, so too there is mental preparation, i.e., the planning that goes into realizing one’s wishes. 3. A craftsman takes wood, stone and metal and makes them into something useful… there is no difference between preparing the soil or preparing other things… [or even] mental ‘plowing’… when one first envisions what he wants to do and then thinks about how to do it. 4. Deaf: From the idea of silence comes the word for one who cannot hear.105. Forest: The intent here is a thickly wooded area.11This too stems from the idea of silence, because in the dense forest there can be only silence; the thick wall of trees make it like a closed room, into which wind cannot penetrate and make itself heard.”

According to this, all definitions of חרש stem from the idea of the thought/planningthat goes into plowing the soil, with silenceborrowed from the idea of thought, since quiet is ideal for thinking and planning, but is not imperative, as mentioned above. It could be that Rashi agrees that silence is a borrowed term and therefore omitted it, stressingthought and planningas the essential part of plowing the soil, which serves as the prototype for all creative work.

We find the word “silence” expressed as חרשin the section of the Pentateuch dealing with the annulling of vows (Numbers 30:4-5): “…and her father was silent (החריש) about her, then all her vows shall stand.” Whereas Onkelostranslates החרישsimply as “silent,”12Targum Yonatanadds the idea of being deliberatelysilent.13Likewise concerning the vows of one’s wife (Numbers 30:8), the Torah uses the word החרישto express silence.14The choice of the word החריש, as opposed to the numerous alternatives listed at the beginning of this essay, shows that this is not “accidental” silence, but rather a “deliberate” silence, one that is part of a bigger plan. The Sifreistates this idea explicitly.15

We see as well from the Talmud’s explanation of this verse that that the intent here is to silence employed in pursuit of a goal. (Nedarim79a): “כי החריש לה- For he was silent about her. The verse refers to one who remained silent in order to confirm [the vow]. What then shall I establish as the subject of “אם החרש יחריש לה אישה— and if her husband shall be silent? Theverse is speaking about one who remains silent in order to distress[his wife].”

We find other branches of this form of “silence” elsewhere in Scripture, such as silence for the sake of listening: (Isaiah 41:1) “Be silent to Me, O islands,” which Rashi and Radak explain as “being silent in order to hear better.”16

There is alsogaining time/remaining, as in Habakuk1:13: “You remain silent when a wicked man swallows up one more righteous than he,” which Targum Yonatanexplains as “and you grant an extension of time to the wicked…” The “silence” in these two verses is clearly one that is employed in order to achieve an end (the first, to be able to listen; the second, to allow extra time).17

We can now return to our opening subject. When Yaakov heard the tragic news of what had happened to Dinah, he was quiet – וְהֶחֱרִשׁ. Even in the midst of his pain over this tragedy, he behaved with the wisdom of “a man of understanding will be silent (יַחֲרִישׁ)” (Proverbs 11:12). All of Yaakov’s life was dedicated to the rule that “the deeds of the fathers are a sign for the sons.” With this he taught his sons — and all of us — that one must never act impetuously, no matter what the situation. First, stop and think. No act is undertaken without first thinking, taking counsel and planning.

So explained the Talelei Orot(Psalms 21:1), that the word חרשitself expresses thought, meaning silence with planning and intent toward a specific end.18

We conclude with the prayer of the Psalmist: “To You, Hashem, I call, my Rock, be not deaf to me” (Psalms 28:1).

1בֶּחָרִישׁ וּבַקָּצִיר(שמ’לד:כא),לֹא תַחֲרֹשׁ בְּשׁוֹרוּבַחֲמֹר יַחְדָּו(דב’כו:י),צִיּוֹן שָׂדֶה תֵחָרֵשׁ(יר’כו:יח).אֶת מַחֲרַשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת אֵתוֹ…לַמַּחֲרֵשֹׁת וְלָאֵתִים(ש”איג:כ-כא).

2לֹא תְקַלֵּל חֵרֵשׁ(ויקרא יט:יד),וְאָזְנֵי חֵרְשִׁים תִּפָּתַחְנָה(ישעיה לה:ה).

3מַחֲרִישׁ לָדַעַת(בר’כד:כא),וְהֶחֱרִשׁ יַעֲקֹב עַד בֹּאָם(בר’לד:ה),כִּי הֶחֱרִשׁ לָהּ(במ’ל:טז),-וַיִּתְחָרְשׁוּ כָל הַלַּיְלָה(שופ’טז:ב),אַל תַּחֲרֵשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ(ש”א ז:ח).

4וּבַחֲרֹשֶׁת אֶבֶן לְמַלֹּאת(שמות לא:ה),וְחָרָשׁ לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּכֹל אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל(ש”א יג:יט),וְאָבִיו אִישׁ צֹרִי חֹרֵשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת(מ”א ז:יד),הַפֶּסֶל נָסַךְ חָרָשׁ(ישעיה מ:יט).

5יוֹעֵץ וַחֲכַם חֲרָשִׁים(ישעיה ג:ג),כִּי עָלָיו שָׁאוּל מַחֲרִישׁ הָרָעָה(ש”א כג:ט),אַל תַּחֲרֹשׁ עַל רֵעֲךָ רעה(משלי ג:כט),חֹרְשֵׁי אָוֶן(איוב ד:ח).

6חֲרוּשָׁה עַל לוּחַ לִבָּם(יר’יז:א).

7וְחֹרֶשׁ מֵצַל(יחז’לא:ג),כַּעֲזוּבַת הַחֹרֶשׁ וְהָאָמִיר(ישעיה יז:ט),וַיֵּשֶׁב דָּוִד בַּחֹרְשָׁה(ש”א כג:יח),וְדָוִד בְּמִדְבַּר זִיף בַּחֹרְשָׁה(ש”א כג:טו).

8ר’משה אשכנזי,ליוורנו,תר”ל.

9וְחֹרֶשׁ מֵצַל(יחז’לא:ג).


11במדבר זיף בחרשה (ש”א כג:טו),ובחרשים בנה בירניות (דה”ב כז:ד),ודומיהם.

12תא-וישתוק לה אבוהא ויקומון כל נדרהא

13תי-וְיִתְכַּוֵון וְיִשְׁתּוֹק לָהּ אִיבָהָא.

14במל:ח-וְשָׁמַע אִישָׁהּ בְּיוֹם שָׁמְעוֹ וְהֶחֱרִישׁ לָהּ וְקָמוּ נְדָרֶיהָ;תי-וּבְיוֹמָא דְשָׁמַע יִתְכַּוֵון לְקַיְימוּתְהוֹן וְיִשְׁתּוֹק לָהּ

15ספרי מטות קנג-והחריש לה אביה -עד שיהא מתכוין לה שאם נדרה בתו ואמר סבור הייתי שאשתי הרי זה יחזור ויפר שנאמר והחריש לה עד שיהא מתכוין לה.

Although the Sifrei and Talmud seem to derive the idea of “deliberate” silence from the additional word לה(meaning the father or husband is silent to her), it seems that if one is silent only by chance, such as if he is asleep, he is not included in the category of החריש, as per the Targum Yonatan.

16הַחֲרִישׁוּ אֵלַי אִיִּים;תי-אֲצִיתוּ לְמֵימְרִי נַגְוָן וּמַלְכְּוָן;רשי-החרישו אלי -כדי לשמוע דבר;רדק-החרישו אלי איים -החרישו שתקו והאזינו אלי.

17חבא:יג-לָמָּה תַבִּיט בּוֹגְדִים תַּחֲרִישׁ בְּבַלַּע רָשָׁע צַדִּיק מִמֶּנּוּ;תי-וּלְמָא אַתְּ מִסְתַּכֵּל בְּאָנְסִין וְאַתְּ יָהֵיב אַרְכָּא לְרַשִׁיעַיָא וּמְסַלְעֲמִין לִדְטָבִין מִנְהוֹן.

18In Mirkevet Argaman (pg. 206), we find an interesting allusion to this idea, based on the final letters of the words “”אתמקנהובשדהוהחרישיעקב, which spell the word ת’ש’ו’ב’ה, repentance.

Vayishlach: Sweet Harmony ~ Tzvi Abrahams

For the illui neshamah of my father, Dovid Yitzchak ben Tzvi Moshe, on his yahrtzeit, the thirteenth of Kislev.


Parshas וַיִשְׁלַח

Sweet Harmony

נֶבֶל: nevel a musical instrument

נְבֵלָה: carcass of a dead animal, disgrace

נוֹבְלוֹת: unripe figs

נָבָל: a name in Tanach

וַתֵּצֵא דִינָה בַּת לֵאָה אֲשֶׁר וַיַּרְא אֹתָהּ שְׁכֶם בֶּן חֲמוֹר וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּוַיְעַנֶּהָ
וּבְנֵי יַעֲקֹב בָּאוּ מִן הַשָּׂדֶה כְּשָׁמְעָם וַיִּתְעַצְּבוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים וַיִּחַר לָהֶם מְאֹד כִּינְבָלָה עָשָׂה בְיִשְׂרָאֵל

And Dinah, the daughter of Leah, went out…and Shechem the son of Chamor saw her…and he forcibly laid with her…and the sons of Yaakov came in from the field and when they heard what happened they became deeply distraught and angry because a disgusting act (נְבָלָה/nevalah) had been committed to a Jewish girl.

כִּי שְׁכֶם הֵבִיא בְּנוֹת הָאָרֶץ סָבִיב לְאֹהֶל יַעַקֹב וְהָיוּ מְשַׂחַקִים בְּכְּלֵי נֶבֶל

Shechem brought the daughters of the land to surround the tent of Yaakov and they were playing music with the nevel (alluring Dinah to come out).

What’s the connection between נֶבֶל/nevel, a musical instrument, and נְבֵלָה/neveilah, a carcass of a dead animal?


נֶבֶל: Nevel A Musical Instrument

Generally, instruments are hollow. A sound fills the hollow through a movement of air or through a vibration from a string. We are all walking instruments in that we are hollow, and when we pass wind through our voice box, we generate sound. The myriad of passages in our lungs are called symphonies. Each individual tube has the capacity to blow air from our lungs through our voicebox and create music, and thus we are not just a living instrument, but a whole symphonic orchestra!

Are the sounds we play tuneful? Is our orchestra in sweet harmony? The answer very much depends on if we are being attentive to the Conductor. With every breath we take, we have the ability to praise Hashemכֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָהתְּהַלֵּל יָ-הּ הַלְלוּיָהּ. Only when we allow our whole being to be directed by Hashem does He become our conductor, and then what comes out is a sweet harmony. However, if we rely on ourselves to do the conducting, then our orchestra is liable to be in a state of discord.

The ayil/ram of Yitzchak that was offered up on the Akeidah was created bein hashemashos/ during the twilight hours on the sixth day of creation. In PirkeiD’Rebbe Eliezer, it says that none of the ayil was left over or discarded; the ashes were used for the foundation of the inner mizbei’ach; the skin was used to gird EliyahuHanavi; one shofar was blown at Har Sinai, and the other will be blown to herald the Mashiach. Its gidim(ligaments) were used as strings in the ten-string nevelthat King David used to play his beautiful psalms to Hashem.

These ten strings were no ordinary strings; since they were offered up to Hashem as a korban, they had reached an elevated state and were now fitting to be used by King David as an instrument for kedushah. This instrument was called the Nevel.


נְבֵלָה: Carcass of a Dead Animal, Disgrace

Neveilah, on the opposite extreme, is a carcass of a dead animal that is full of tumah and cannot be drawn close to Hashem.

The Torah calls the disgusting act done by Shechem ben Chamor in defiling Dinah an act of neveilah. No coincidence that he was a son of an animal (his father’s name, Chamor, is also the Hebrew word for a donkey). An animal act is a hollow action — an act of taking that leaves the chalal/empty space remaining hollow and dead inside — it leaves one feeling empty and wanting — like a dead carcass, which emanates tumah. This is what the Torah calls neveilah.

We see that the same root (נֶבֶל\נְבֵלָה) has the power to uplift and become part of Hashem’s orchestra or to become tamei/impure and be rejected as something dead and disgusting. Only something that has life can play music and be in Hashem’s orchestra. Even though the ayil/ram was no longer alive, since it was offered up to Hashem, its very essence continues to live, as we see nothing went to waste. When we are connected to Hashem, and all that we do is for Hashem, then we are living, breathing, and playing in the big orchestra of life as part of the grand symphony.

But when we are not close to Hashem, it is like we are dead, full of tumah, like a neveilah, a dead carcass, a hollow chalal/space without a player. What comes out of our mouths is not music but discord and disharmony. There needs to be a living force, a ruach/moving spirit in order to give the hollow life, to give the instrument life. Only when we are connected to life, to Hashem, is there a living force.

In the pasukעַם נָבָל וְלֹא חָכָם in Parshas Ha’azinu, TargumOnkelos understands נָבָל to be referring to the receiving of the Torah. The Likkutei Moharan explains עַם נָבָל וְלֹאחָכָם to mean that in order to receive the Torah, we needed to discard the chochmas hagoyim/wisdom of the goyim.We were no different from the Egyptians; they served avodah zarah and so did we, so why did we get the Torah? The answer is that during our forty-nine-day sojourn to Har Sinai, we were able to discard their chochmah and their culture.

The connection between the נֶבֶל and נְבֵלָה is simply that aנֶבֶל is a hollow full of kedushah and נְבֵלָה is a hollow full of tumah. Only when we empty ourselves from all the tumah are we able to make room for the kedushah. This was the נֶבֶל of Kabalas HaTorah.

Torah is compared to מַיִם, and just like water flows from a high place and doesn’t stop until it reaches the lowest point, so too Torah can only be received by someone who is very humble. Someone who is full of himself, who is full of גַסֻת רוּחַ/arrogance, is not capable of receiving the Torah because he has made no room for it. Only someone who has deflated his ego, his sense of self, and who has made himself into an empty kli/vessel can be mekabel/receive the Torah.

King David, who was full of Torah, used the נֶבֶל to play music and sing Psalms. We know that King Shaul, when he wanted to connect to Hashem, would call for David to play music, and through the medium of music he would be able to connect and have ruach hakodesh. What is it about the nature of music that gives people the ability of reaching heights of kedushah? Music has the quality of helping us to relax our minds from all the stuff that is going on in our lives and helps us to meditate. By throwing out all the mundane stuff from our minds, we are then able to fill ourselves up with kedushah. This is the process of going from נְבֵלָה to נֶבֶל. Unfortunately, we live in a generation where music can take us to the opposite extreme that puts us in touch with our animal selves.


נוֹבְלוֹת: Unripe Figs

In Bereishis Rabbah it mentions three types of נוֹבְלוֹת: sleep, dreams, and Shabbos. All of them are one-sixtieth of the real thing, as Chazal say that sleep is one-sixtieth of death, dreams are one-sixtieth of prophecy, and Shabbos is just one-sixtieth a taste of Olam HaBa. The Gemara in Brachos defines נוֹבְלוֹת as unripe figs that were blown off the tree before ripening and are thus very bitter. So נוֹבְלוֹת is something that has fallen short of its potential, just a taste of what it could have been. Hence, sleep, dreams, and Shabbos are all just a taste of the real thing. The aforementioned Midrash adds the sun and Torah to the list of נוֹבְלוֹת. The sun is included because its light is miniscule compared to the true heavenly light that surrounds the glory of Hashem’s throne, and the Torah that we have in our world is just a fraction of its counterpart in Shamayim.

In essence, we are all נוֹבְלוֹת in that we have not yet come to fruition. We could be much greater. How do we get to the greater part of ourselves? Through the aspect of נֶבֶל.By deflating ourselves from all the waste and tumah that we are infected by in this world and instead inflating ourselves with קְדוּשָׁה through the נֶבֶל, which has the capacity to pluck the strings of our hearts and tune us into a much higher place. Just like a balloon, if we fill ourselves up with air, we are able to float our boat, however if we are connected to the aspect of נְבֵלָה, then we are full of decaying flesh and bones just wasting away; we have no chance of getting off the ground, our boat is anchored, and we’re going nowhere.


נָבָל: Name in Tanach

וְשֵׁם הָאִישׁ נָבָלוְהָאִישׁ קָשֶׁה וְרַע מַעֲלָלִים
The man’s name was Novol…the man was difficult and an evildoer.


אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ אֵין אֱלֹהִים

In Tehillim, Novol is referred to as Nevuchadnetzarbecause he filled up the world with corpses, or because in the future Hashem will cause him to fall like נוֹבְלוֹתfrom a tree.

Noam Elimelech to Parshas Vayishlach refers to Lavanas לָבָן לָשׁוֹן נָבָל, a synonym for the yetzer hara.


הַשַֹר הַמְנוּנִית עַל עַנִיוּת נָבָל שְׁמוֹ

In the Mishnah Berurah, with regards to passing water next to one’s bed, it is considered a disgusting act in the eyes of Hashem and causes one to be impoverished. It quotes the Gemara in Pesachim that says the name of the angel of poverty is called נָבָל.


נֶבֶלוְהוּא כְּלֵי זֶמֶר עִם מֵיתָרִים כְּמוֹ נִקְרָא נֶבֶל מִי שֶׁהָיָה נִגוּנֵי מְתוּקָהבְּיוֹתֶר עַד שֶׁמְנַבֵל כָּל כְּלֵי שִׁיר שֶׁבְּעוֹלָם

Nevel is a musical instrument and is called nevel because its music is so sweet that it menavel/puts to shame all other instruments in the world.


The power to consecrate or desecrate is in our hands.

זֶמֶר/zemer is to cut away, or to sing. By singing, we are able to cut through to our souls, to Hashem.

נֶצַח/forever, victory; לַמְנַצֵחַ/LaMenatzei’ach, conductor

When we are connected to Hashem, we are connected to the conductor, we are connected to forever, we are victorious over our נְבֵלָה/body, and instead we are strung up to a נֶבֶל and to Hashem. We are now an instrument of sweet harmony, worthy of being in the grand symphony orchestra.