Sukkot: Gog’s Impervious Roof Versus Israel’s Flimsy Thatched Sukkah ~ Yehoshua Steinberg

Sukkot: Gog’s Impervious Roof Versus Israel’s Flimsy Thatched Sukkah

(The following is in the main an adaptation of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch’s commentary on the Pentateuch).

Lev. 23:34 – Speak to the people of Israel, saying, the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord.

Rabbi S.R. Hirsch (Num. 29:13) notes that the prophetic portions of foretelling apocalyptic wars of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel Ch. 38, 39) are read on the festival of Sukkot. He suggests a connection between the name “Gog” and the root גג –roof. In contrast, the name “Sukkah” signifying a booth is closely linked to the word סכך, the flimsy branch coverings required by Halacha to rest on the Sukkah. 

Gog would therefore symbolize the utter antithesis of the Sukkah, as follows: whereas the “walls” of the Sukkah are halachically required to be somewhat substantial and steady, the סכך is frail and helpful for little else than protection against direct sunlight; it scarcely avails in the face of heat, much less rain, wind and other weather.

Symbolically, the walls teach us that although we must engage in efforts to protect ourselves against the earthly dangers and enemies which surround us, the feeble סכך covering instructs us that vis-à-vis our Heavenly Father above we recognize that all such attempts are futile in view of His Omnipotence. In contrast to the סכך canopy, the גג-roof announces haughtily that we humans absolute masters of our destiny, even to the extent that it can protect us against G-d’s wrath. This is demonstrated in the early history of Mankind (Gen. 11:2-4), when Man decided to build the Tower of Babel, which was nothing short of a frontal war on G-d (see Alshich to Dan. 3:1). Man at his arrogant worst is intoxicated with his technology and creative genius, and cannot abide a Force greater than he – even the Lord Himself. 

This on-going Kulturkampf is at the root of anti-Semitism as well, the Jews’ סכך loudly proclaiming the Uber-power of G-d over humans, vs. the גג’s defiance against that self-same Lord.

The Talmud (Avodah Zara 3a) tells us that the idolaters complain to G-d, as it were, that their lack of Heavenly reward is unfair, since they were never given a chance to fulfill the Divine precepts. G-d agrees to give them the “easy” Mitzvah of Sukkah. Each one then enthusiastically built a Sukkah on his roof – until the weather turned hot, upon which they all contemptuously kicked down their Sukkahs. Apparently, leaving their fate and comfort in the hands of G-d is insufferable – even for a week.

That said, a total of seventy sacrifices were offered in the Temple on this holiday – one for each of the emblematic seventy gentile nations. Our tradition has it that following the calamitous wars of Gog and Magog, the entire world will repent and recognize the One G-d of the universe – all on the holiday of Sukkot. Those surviving the cataclysmic carnage will finally grasp that no roof, not of shingles, not of titanium, not even a futuristic electronic force-field can stand up to G-d’s wrath. Those remaining finally realize that “not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit” (Zech. 4:6) does the world exist. Those who embrace and are embraced by the rickety סכך ironically outlive those protected by Man’ most sophisticated defenses.

May we merit the blessings of the Redemption of Israel and all of Mankind during this joyous holiday – sans the need for Gog or his גג.




Terumah/Yom Kippur: To Cover up or to Clean Up, That is the Question ~ Yehoshua Steinberg

Terumah/Yom Kippur

Exodus 25:17 – And you shall make a cover of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. Rashi – an ark cover Heb. כַפֹּרֶת a cover over the ark, which was open from above. He [Moses] placed it [the cover] over it [the ark] like a board.

Rashi brings no proof-text for support that the word כפורת  linguistically means cover, but Ibn Ezra compares this to the word כפרה  –atonement– which he asserts to mean covering the sin, based on Psalm 32:1 – Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

The reason Rashi did not cite כפרה as a proof that כפורת means cover is plain – Rashi holds that atonement means obliteration of the sin, not covering it, as we see on his comment regarding the phrase אכפרה פניו  uttered by Jacob prior to encountering Esau:

Genesis 32:21 – I will appease his anger with the gift that is going before me, and afterwards I will see his face, perhaps he will favor me. Rashi – Heb. אֲכַפְּרָה פָנָיו, I will do away with his anger (Onkelos). Similarly (Isa. 28:18): “And your treaty with death shall be nullified (וְכֻפַּר)”; (ibid., 47:11) “you shall not be able to rid yourself of it (כַּפְּרָה).” This is Aramaic, and there are many instances of it in the Talmud, e.g. (B.M. 24a): “and he wiped (וְכָפַר) his hands”; (Gittin 56a): “He wishes to wipe (לִכְפוּרֵי) His hands on this person.” In biblical Hebrew also, the sacred sprinkling basins are called כְּפוֹרֵי זָהָב (Ezra 1:10) because the priest wipes his hands on them at the edge of the sprinkling basin.

In explaining the word אכפרה, Rashi uses no less than three separate words: ביטול, העברה and קינוח – all denoting erasing and wiping out, leaving no room for doubt about his disagreement with those who render כפרה as covering. At the same time though, Rashi is careful to qualify this interpretation as applying only to כפרה related to sins and anger – apparently to exclude the כפורת, which means cover, despite the fact the words share an identical root.

In seeking to determine the core meaning of a root, one is well-advised to examine the first occurrence of the word in the Tanach. In this case, the root כפר first occurs in the story of the building of Noah’s ark: Genesis 6:14 – and you shall caulk it both inside and outside with pitch.

Here again we turn to Ibn Ezra, who comments that the term for caulking, וכפרת, means covering, which in turn relates back to the כפורת, the cover of the ark. Rashi however is mum on this point.

Another כפר derivative is the word כפירה – heresy, albeit a non-Biblical term, but one used extensively in the Talmud. In seeking to determine the core meaning of this Rabbinic term, however, we are assisted with a solid hint found in the Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer. Many examples are cited in this Midrash to emphasize G-d’s loathing of ingratitude of any sort, called כפיית טובה, one example of which is a כופר, a heretic, because his stance is actually כפירת טובה. Thus the term כפירה is equated with כפייה, which would logically mean that understanding the core meaning of כפייה would shed light on the term כפירה and כופר.

The meaning of כפייה in the Tanach is clear; Proverbs 21:14 states: מַתָּן בַּסֵּתֶר יִכְפֶּה אָף – A gift in secret covers anger. Metzudat Tzion says this means covering, and it is used in that sense in the Talmud (e.g. Shabbat 88a). Thus the term כפירה would mean simply that the heretic seeks to hide or cover the truth.

This in turn helps us understand other כפר  derivatives, such as כפיר, a young lion, and כפר, a village. Both of these words are homiletically connected by the Sages (Avot D’Rabbi Natan 43 and Eiruvin 21b respectively) to the word כפירה (perhaps because both the lion and the self-sufficient villager feel independent and “cover their eyes” to the generosity bestowed upon them by G-d and parents that brought them to this point).

With ample proof-texts to back Ibn Ezra’s stance that the core meaning of כפרה is in fact covering, what would explain Rashi’s emphatic insistence that it means nothing short of obliteration? Furthermore, instead of comparing כפרה to the obvious derivatives of כפר  Ibn Ezra cites, Rashi references Talmudic expressions as support, and only lastly cites the Biblical כפורי זהב, the obscure sprinkling vessels first mentioned only in the book of Ezra.

Another difficult Rashi may ironically help to unravel Rashi’s puzzling position about the root כפר and the word כפרה. Following the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses prefaces his entreaties to G-d with the following expression addressed to the Israelites:

Exodus 32:30 – And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I will obtain atonement for your sin. Rashi – I will obtain atonement for your sin Heb. אֲכַפְּרָה בְּעַד חַטַּאתְכֶם. [This means] I will place a כופר, a wiping away, and an obstruction opposite your sin to separate you from your sin.

“Wiping away” is one thing, an “obstruction” is quite another! Moses is here discussing his hope to attain atonement for the most infamous sin of all time, and he is aiming to obtain only an “obstruction”? And what of the word כופר  here – does it in fact mean wiping away or is Rashi here acknowledging that Ibn Ezra was correct all along and that כפרה indeed means aught but covering the sin?

I believe Rashi is forced in this case to confront כפר’s meaning of covering and obstruction due to Moses’ use of the word בעד, which he explains elsewhere (vis. I Sam. 1:6, Gen. 20:18, Job 2:4) to mean כנגד, in front of, in the face of. That is, because of the gravity of the sin, Moses cannot be certain that he will succeed in obtaining absolute erasure of the memory of this calamitous iniquity, and there may be no choice but to live with an “obstruction,” a barrier or a temporary covering of the sin, which may well necessitate further atonements in the future, even into future generations.

When Rashi says “I will place a כופר”, this can refer only to a noun, namely to the caulking pitch used by Noah, referring figuratively to the obstruction or covering of the great sin in question. But Rashi stresses that this is not Moses’ “atonement of choice” –surely total erasure is the ultimate goal– but because the choice is only in G-d’s hands, Moses used
the term כפר precisely, to convey both meanings.

But if the root כפר bears both meanings, why does Rashi insist in other places that כפרה means nothing but obliterating? For the same reason that Moses (according to Rashi’s interpretation), first says that he will pray for “wiping out.” The potential penitent will never approach the subject of repentance thinking that his sins will merely be covered; he wishes only for a completely clean slate. G-d surely wishes to encourage repentance, a theme oft-repeated in the Torah. There may be sins that require a greater degree of effort and time to nullify as detailed in Rambam’s Hilchot Teshuva, and that is reflected by the “cover” meaning of כפר. That said, the “clean slate” begins immediately, like the כפורת  of pure gold that covered the ark, which itself was constructed in part of שיטים wood to atone for the sin that occurred at the place bearing that name (תנחומא תרומה י). Past sins may not be erased immediately, but they can ironically be utilized as the very foundation for a golden, glorious future (e.g. a penitent, clean Mob boss has the organizational, social and financial skills easily serve as a CEO of any legitimate firm).

May we all merit ultimate atonement of our sins through the service of the High priest before the ark and its כפורת.

For full Hebrew sources and previous posts, see https://www.facebook.com/groups/1669565696664822/.

שבת שלום




Nitzavim: Getting to the Root of Uprooting ~ Yehoshua Steinberg

Nitzavim: Getting to the Root of Uprooting – the Wonders of the Holy Tongue

The root ‘נתש’ appears only in this week’s Parashah, and nowhere else in the entire Pentateuch. When warning of the calamities that are destined to befall the Jewish People should they stray into worshipping idolatry, the Torah says that observers will exclaim: And Hashem ויתשם them from upon their land, with anger, with fury, and with great wrath. And He will ‘throw’ them to a different land… (Deut. 29:27). What does ויתשם”” mean? Rashi and Targum Onkelus explain that ויתשם”” means move / transport, and Rashi adds another verse bearing a similar meaning: Behold I will “נותשם” them from their land (Jer. 12:14).

Many commentators equate the root ‘נתש’ with the root ‘נטש’. Some even cite these verses as an example par excellence of the interchanging of the phonetically related letters ת’ and ט’ (which both belong to the larger דטלנ”ת group which are all likewise phonetically linked).Rashi, in his commentary to Ezekiel, implies that he agrees with this assessment. Ezekiel lists a series of disasters, and among them says, And ותתש”” with fury to be thrown to the land” (Ezek. 19:12). Rashi (there) explains the word ותתש”” by writing that both “נתישה” and “נטישה” refer to something which is moved and dispersed all about.

Nonetheless, even though the roots ‘נתש’ and ‘נטש’ bear very similar meanings, there remain nuanced differences between them. For example, Radak (in Sefer HaShorashim) groups the verses deriving from the root ‘נטש’ into two main sets, according to their respective collective meanings. The first group in entry ‘נטש’ contains verses denoting forsaking / leaving ; the verses in the second group in the ‘נטש’ entry mean spreading / separating. Radak cites the following verses as reflective of the first definition of ‘נטש’: 

Behold your father has abandoned (“נטש”) the matter of the donkeys (I Sam. 10:2). With whom did you leave (“נטשת”) those few sheep (I Sam. 17:28). For You have abandoned (“נטשתה”) Your nation the House of Jacob (Isa. 2:6). And you did not even leave me (“נטשתני”) to kiss my [grand]sons and my daughters (Gen. 31:28). And I will leave you (“ונטשתיך”) in the desert (Ezek. 49:5).  You shall make it slip away, and you shall forsake (“ונטשתה”) it (Ex. 23:11). For Hashem shall not forsake (“יטש”) His nation” (I Sam. 12:22). And King David left (“ויטש”) the vessels (I Sam. 17:22). and Before the fight has been revealed, abandon (“נטוש”) it (Prov. 17:14). All of these passages revolve around forsaking or leaving alone.

For the second meaning of ‘נטש’, Radak cites the following Biblical passages:

“And [the wind] spread (“ויטש”) over the camp” (Num. 11:31); “And the battle spread (ותטש””)” (I Sam. 4:2);  “Spread out (“נטשים”) across the face of the entire land” (I Sam. 30:16); “Because of an outstretched (נטושה) sword” (Isa. 21:15).  In all of these cases, the words related to ‘טש’ serve as an expression of spreading / leaving untouched.

Interestingly, Radak also notes that as an off-shoot of this second meaning of ‘נטש’, the word also came to refer to a certain type of tree branch which extends out in various directions. He cites two verses bearing this meaning: And the branches (“הנטישות”)—He will remove, [and] chop off (Isa. 18:5); and: Remove her branches (“נטישותיה”) (Jer. 5:10).

At first blush, it seems that Radak’s second definition of ‘נטש’ as spreading / separating is the same as the meaning of ‘נתש’ in that both are expressions of dispersal (indeed, as we saw above, Rashi in his commentary to Ezekiel makes this point of the shared meaning between the two roots). 

However, even with this common meaning between the two roots, we cannot ignore a prominent difference between them (detailed in the next paragraph), namely: in all the Biblical sources which Radak cites that use ‘נטש’ in the sense of spreading / separating, that spreading is carried out in accordance with the will and plan of the one causing the spreading,  who certainly does not wish to completely detach whatever is being spread from its original source. 

On the other hand, the meanings common to all the examples cited by Radak deriving from the root ‘נתש’  involve moving (טלטול) / uprooting (עקירה)- implying a complete and utter detachment of an entity from its source. For example, he cites: Behold I am uprooting (“נתשם”, rendered by Targum as “מטלטיל”) them from their land, and I will uproot the House of Judah from among them (Jer. 12:14). He will uproot (“ונתש”, rendered by Targum as “ויעקר”) Israel (I Kgs. 14:15). To uproot (“נתוש”, rendered by Targum as “למעקר”) and to smash (Jer. 1:10); It will not be abandoned (“ינתש”, rendered by Targum as “יתעקר”) nor destroyed again forever (Jer. 31:39). It was uprooted (“ותתש”, rendered by Targum as “ואתעקרת”) in fury (Ezek. 19:12). And: And I will uproot (“ונתשתי”, rendered by Targum as “ואעקר”) your Asherah-trees (Mic. 5:13). 

Despite this difference between these meanings of the root ‘נתש’ and Radak’s second meaning of ‘נטש’ (spreading out), they do retain a shared general meaning relating to the concept of dispersal. In contradistinction to both of these on the other hand, Radak’s first grouping of ‘נטש’-derived verses (forsaking / leaving) does not depend on spreading / dispersal per se, rather of the verses all pointing to forsaking / rejection / leaving something neglected – all of which can be true of entities which have never moved from their original location

In any case, we will now carefully examine these two roots in order to detect the slight differences in their connotations. We begin with words that are related to the root ‘נטש’ (Listed in Machaberet Menachem simply as ‘טש’, who holds that the leading letter נ’ is not really intrinsic to the root. Six separate roots contain the string ‘טש’ (in the Bible and in Aramaic or the Rabbinic vernacular), all of which recall the ideas of dispersal / spreading / rejection etc… and we will closely analyze each of those words.

  1. Natash “נטש” – As mentioned above, this word has two meanings: The first refers to the notion of dispersal / spreading, and the second refers to forsaking / rejection.
  2. Patash “פטש”- The word פטיש is a hammer which smashes objects, and causes chips to fly away and disperse in various directions.  For this reason, the Talmud (Brachot 28b) relates that the students of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai likened their teacher to a strong hammer: When Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai fell ill, his students came in to visit him. When he saw them, he began to cry. His students said to him: “O Light of Israel, the Right-hand Pillar, Mighty Hammer (“פטיש”), why are you crying?” The Aruch (entry פטיש) explains that he was called a Mighty Hammer because just as a hammer causes small fragments of whatever it chisels at to be dispersed, so were Halachot in the name of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai disseminated or dispersed throughout the entire world.
  3. Ratash “רטש” – The Talmud (Bava Metzia 38b–39a) differentiates between two types of abandoned property, the first is called netushim (“נטושים”, derived from “נטש”) and the second is called retushim (“רטושים”). The first refers to property whose owners were forced to leave, while the second refers to property which the owners willingly deserted. The word “רטשה” appears in Hosea: – Mother and child were רטשה””  (Hos. 10:14). Rashi explains that “רוטשה” means broken apart, adducing other verses with the same import (Isa. 13:16, 18). Rashi then adds an alternative explanation for רטשה””, namely a synonym for forsaken. But in most cases explains that it refers to breaking (which is more in line with the meaning of the root “פטש”). 
  4. Atash “”עטש – This word appears once in the Bible, “His sneezes (“עטישתיו”), flash light” (Job 41:10). The word עטישתיו is rendered by the Targum as “”זרירוהי, the Hebrew cognate of which –also meaning “sneeze”- appears in II Kings. 4:35 when Elisha revives a dead child: The child sneezed (“ויזורר”) up to seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Rashi there explains “ויזורר” means “נתעטש”.  The word “”זורר itself denotes dispersal as we say in the Tefillat Tal (on the First Day of Passover),  “He scatters (“זורר”) dew on a line”, and Peirush Beit Levi explains that “זורר” means “פיזור”, dispersal. 
  5. Latash “לטש” – The simple meaning of “לטוש” is sharpen / polish / whetting.  However, many exegates interpret that “לטוש” and “נטוש” can be used interchangeably. For example, Gen. 25:3 tells of the descendants of Abraham and his wife Keturah. She bore a son named Dedan, whose children are listed as Ashurim, Letushim (“לטושים”), and Leumim. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that Letushim were tent-dwelling nomads who were dispersed about. Rashi cites I Sam. 30:16 which refers to: netushim (“נטושים”) on the face of the whole land, and argues that the letter ל of Letushim and the letter נ of netushim are interchangeable. Conversely, when Isaiah refers to a: sword that is נטושה (Isa. 21:15), Rashi explains that it refers to a sword that is spread over the face of the earth. He then explains that נטושהmeans the same as לטושהbecause the letters ל and נ are phonetically related (part of the דטלנ”ת group mentioned above). Radak (ad loc.) also writes that נטושהmeans spread, but concedes that some commentators explain that netushah means לטושה. According to Rashi in Genesis, as well as the initial explanations of Rashi and Radak to Isaiah, netushim refers to dispersal / spreading, while according to the second explanations cited by Rashi and Radak to Isaiah, the word netushim refers to sharpness

Truth be told, there is an underlying connection between the word “ליטוש” as clear / shiny and the notion of dispersal / spreading. That is because a precious gem which is polished reflects and disperses the luminescence of whatever light is shone upon it. This is similar to what the  Rebbe Ria”tz of Lubavtich writes (Iggrot HaKodesh, vol. 4, p. 289) in Kabbalistic-style language: 

Just as a light naturally shines and disperses, thus multiplying and enlightening far and wide, so does the light shone upon an entity which is “מלוטש” (polished / shiny) in turn reflected and dispersed …such that it can then serve as a light for others. 

  1. Tishtash “טשטש” – When discussing the laws of leprosy on a house, the Torah requires one to first remove the affected stones, and then replaster the affected area (Lev. 14:42). The word used for this replastering is vetach (וטח””) which literally means smoothen, andTargum Yonatan translates it as vayittash (ויתטש””). The Talmud (Pesachim 30b) similarly uses an associated  term, “טשין” (smear), stating that one may not smear animal tail fat on an oven, and Rashi explains that “טשין” is an expression of spreading, akin to “טח”. Similarly, the Tosefta (Gittin 7:10) rules that a bill of divorce which has been erased or its writing was obscured / smeared (מטושטש), but is still readable, is still valid. 

To summarize, after comparing all the different roots containing the two-letter string ‘טש’, it appears that the common meaning is spreading / dispersal. The meaning forsaking / leaving,which is the Radak’s first way of defining ‘טש’, may be a common consequence of the act of spreading and dispersing, but is not the primary meaning of ‘טש’. In other words, although dispersed entities may be forgotten and forsaken, but the possibility remains that even after dispersal, it is the owner’s prerogative  to gather it up and not forsake it.

The same verses which Radak connected to the root ‘נתש’, Menachem ibn Saruk connects to the root ‘תש’ (in consonance with his own opinion, mentioned above, that the letter נ’ in the beginning of the word is not usually part of the root). Similarly, R. Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau in Cheshek Shlomo also connects those words to the root ‘תש’, whose principle meaning is, in his estimation, weakness in connection. However, R. Pappenheim also connects to this root another word which is not listed in Machaberet Menachem: 

The Rock who gave birth to you, you have “תשי” (Deut. 32:18). Rashi explains that on a plain level   “תשי”refers to forgetting, but on an exegetical level, it means weakening (as the Jews who anger G-d “weaken”, so to speak, His ability to do good for them). Nonetheless, R. Pappenheim connects the word “תשי” to the root ‘נש’ (which parallels the entry ‘נשה’ [who defines it as forgetting] in Radak’s system), and explains that ‘תש’ and ‘נש’ are inter-related roots. He writes that both roots refer to weakening, whether it is ‘תש’ in the case of “תשי” “weakening” G-d’s ability to do good, or ‘נש’ in the case of the sciatic nerve known as gid hanashe (“גיד הנשה”, see below), whose attachment to the body has been weakened. However, in his entry to ‘נש’, R. Pappenheim explains that that root refers to the concept of forgetting and adduces this view from the verses: Israel has not forgotten  me (“תנשני”) (Isa. 44:21), and: And your righteousness in the Land of Forgetfulness (בארץ נשיה””) (Ps. 88:13).

We should point out that there are some verses which according to most commentators refer to forgetting,while Rashi interprets them as referring to moving / jumping (i.e., moving and uprooting). For example, Jeremiah says: And I will nashiti you a nasho (ונשיתי אתכם נשא) (Jer. 23:39), which Rashi (ad loc.) explains is related to the gid hanashe (sciatic nerve) and refers to something which has been moved from place to place (see also Jer. 51:30). Similarly, Gen. 32:33 mentions the prohibition for a Jew to eat from the gid hanashe, and Rashi explains that the word hanashe (הנשה) is called so because it jumps / moves when one walks. To that effect, Rashi cites Jer. 51:30 and Gen. 41:51 as other places where “נשה”-related words refer to moving, as opposed to forgetting. Interestingly, Radak (Sefer HaShorashim, s.v. נשה) offers a synthesis of these two views by explaining that the gid hanashe is called such because, as the Talmud (Chullin 91a) explains, it moves from place to place, and Radak adds, by doing so, this nerve looks as if it has forgotten where exactly it belongs. 

R. Pappenheim connects two more words to the root ‘תש’: 1) “תיש” – a he-goat and 2) “יתוש” – a  fly (in Rabbinic Hebrew). We propose to add to this list the root 3) “כתש” – squeezing. We will now explain the connection between ‘תש’ and these three words in greater detail:

1. תיש – The Sages expound on a connection between the word “תיש” and the concept of weakening energy (“התשת כח”). This is found in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 82b): Rav Nachman said in the name of Rav: What does it mean when it says, “the thigh-belted greyhound, the he-goat (“תיש”), and the king against whom nobody can stand up” (Prov. 30:31)? It alludes to the fact that Zimri committed 424 acts of copulation with Kozbi on that day, and Phineas waited until his energy had weakened (תשש כחו””) before killing him.  Rashi explains that the weakening of Zimri’s energy is alluded to in the word “he-goat” (“תיש”), which is similar to “תשש כחו”.

2. יתוש – Rabbi Pappenheim connects the word “יתוש” (fly) to the root ‘תש’ by explaining that a “יתוש” is a type of weak and flimsy fly. Indeed, in rabbinic literature, the “יתוש” is regarded as a lowly creature. We find examples of this in a few places: the Talmud (Sanhedrin 38a) explains that G-d created Adam on Friday afternoon so that if he becomes haughty, then they will tell him, “The יתוש was created before you in the Creation of the World.”  Midrash Tanchuma (Chukat 52) relates that even if the Land of Cheshbon (the capital city of Sihon) was filled with “יתושין” it would still be impossible to conquer, even more so that it was actually a fortified city defended by giants. On the other hand, the Talmud (Shabbat 77b) highlights one of the great ironies of the animal kingdom that an elephant is scared of a mere יתוש. In a similar vein, Vayikra Rabbah(22:3) relates that G-d dispatches all elements of Creation to do His bidding, and cites as an example that He even uses the lowly יתוש to mete out punishment, as in the case of Titus (the Roman Emperor who destroyed the Holy Temple), He employed a יתוש to enter Titus’ nose and eat his way until his brain. From all of these sources, we see that the יתוש is regarded lowly by the rabbis, in line with Rabbi Pappenheim’s understanding that a יתוש is a weak and flimsy creature, yet concomitantly has the power to weaken (מתיש) the mighty.

3. כתש – The verb cognate of “כתש” refers to the act of applying pressure / smashing. It appears in the following Proverb: “If you crush a fool with a mortar in softened grain and pound him with a pestle, you will not have removed his foolishness from upon him” (Prov. 27:22). In this, King Solomon likened the attempt to separate a fool from his foolishness to separating the kernels from the chaff using a mortar and pestle. In Mishnaic Hebrew, the root “כתש” appears as in the context of crushing olives in an olive press in order to extract olive oil: For example, Rashi (to Ex. 27:20) explains that when the Torah requires the oil of the candelabra to be “כתית” this means that the olives should be crushed in a crusher (“כותש במכתשת”), and not milled with a millstone (in order that there not be any sediment). In other words, all that is left of the olive after extracting its essence through כתישה is weakened (מותש) and worthless dregs.

In any case, what is clear from all of this is that there is a difference between the root ‘נתש’ and the root ‘נטש’ in that ‘נתש’ refers  to moving / forgetting / separating / uprooting (i.e. total detachment and removal ), while words derived from ‘נטש’ simply denote scattering / dispersal but not a total or final uprooting. Case in point: When discussing the laws of Shemitta (Sabbatical year) which call for refraining from agricultural activities, the Torah says, “You shall make it slip away, and you shall forsake (“ונטשתה”) it” (Ex. 23:11). Yet, even though the Torah requires one to “forsake” his field, he is still allowed to tend to his existing plants in order to keep them alive. This tells us that even when ‘נטש’ refers to forsaking, it is not an utter and complete abandonment, but a more limited loosening of one’s grip.

Indeed, the punishment which is said to befall the sinner, as expressed in this week’s Parashah, is more related to an utter rejection than to a limited one: And Hashem will ויתשם”” them from upon their land, with anger, with fury, and with great wrath. And He will ‘throw’ them to a different land… (Deut. 29:27). Similarly, Jeremiah uses the root ‘נתש’ when talking about the punishments which are destined to reach the enemies of the Jewish People: Behold I will “נותשם” them from their land (Jer. 12:14).

Nonetheless, this week’s Parashah always falls out on the Shabbos before the Day of Judgement, and, in fact, the gates of repentance are never locked.We are still in the midst of the seven weeks of consolation (from after Tisha B’Av), and it is amazing how the root ‘נתש’ also appears in the context of consolation and the future redemption: …And I will uproot (אתוש””) the House of Judah from among them. And it shall be that after I uprooted (“נתשי”) them, I will return them, and I will have mercy upon them, and I will return each man to his heritage, and each man to his land (Jer. 12:14–15). Abarbanel explains that this prophecy refers to the Jews’ exile from the Holy Land to Babylon, and announces that the Babylonian Exile will eventually come to a close, and the Jews will return to Jerusalem.

May we merit that this prophecy be fulfilled along with its sister prophecy where Jeremiah declares: Behold, the days are coming—speaks Hashem—and the City to Hashem will be built…  It will not be abandoned (“ינתש”) nor destroyed again forever (Jer. 31:37–39).

1  [לשיטת רד”ק וסייעתו].

2  [רד”ק (ערך ‘נתש’, ‘צבט’), ספר זכרון לר’ יוסף קמחי (חלוף דטלנ”ת), ספר מהלך (ר’ משה קמחי, דף יד:); ספר נימוקים (על שרשים לרד”ק לר’ אליהו בחור, ערך ‘רטש’). וראה רד”ק יר’ יח:יד, כג:לט].

3  [במודפסים נמצאת גירסא זו וגם גירסת “ונטיעה”, אולם מצאנו “ונטישה” במהדורה קדומה (ונציה רפ”ה)].

4  [ושים לב שרש”י בישע’ טז:ח (מובא להלן בהערות) פירש פסוק זה כלשון  הפצה, כענין מחלקה ב’ ברד”ק].

5  רשי – ותטש המלחמה – ותתפשט המלחמה, כמו: והנם נטושים על פני הארץ (ש”א ל), וכן: וינטשו בלחי (שופ’ טו).

6  רשי– וחרב נטושה – פשוטה על פני הארץ כמו: והנם נטושים על פני כל הארץ (ש”א ל), וינטשו בעמק רפאים (שם כה)…

7  [ורש”י נקט גם במונחים “פיזור”, “הפצה”]: שופטו:ט – וַיִּנָּטְשׁוּ בַּלֶּחִי; רשי – וינטשו – ויתפזרו. ישעטז:ח – שְׁלֻחוֹתֶיהָ נִטְּשׁוּ עָבְרוּ יָם; רשי – נטשו – נפצו כמו: ונטשתיך המדברה (יחז’ כט), והנם נטושים (ש”א ל), וינטשו בעמק רפאים (ש”ב ה:כה). ([ונקט רש”י גם במלה לועזית שתרגם “לעזי רש”י כלשון  שטיחה]: יחזכט:ה – וּנְטַשְׁתִּיךָ הַמִּדְבָּרָה… עַל פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה; רשי – ונטשתיך המדברה…  א”י אטינדר”י טו”י בלע”ז; לעזירשי – תרגום: ואשטח אותך.) [‘נטש’ מורה גם על  השלכה, הטלה (וגם הפלה  – ראה רש”י יחז’ לא:יב), אמנם רש”י קישר גם הוראות אלו לענין  הפצה]: עמוסה:ב– נִטְּשָׁה עַל אַדְמָתָהּ; רשי – נטשה על אדמתה – כל דבר המושלך ומוטל ונופץ על השדה קורהו נטישה. [ושמא קרובה לכך המלה הייחודית “יטושׂ” (עם ש’ שמאלית)]: איובט:כו – כְּנֶשֶׁר יָטוּשׂ עֲלֵי אֹכֶל; [כלומר, יפרוש את כנפיו וישליך את עצמו ויפול על הפגר שרוצה בו].

8  [וכן כתוב על סוג ענפים המתפשטים]: ישעטז:ח – שְׁלֻחוֹתֶיהָ נִטְּשׁוּ עָבְרוּ יָם.

9  [אם כי לעתים בע”כ של ה”מתפשטים”, בהתאם לפירוש חז”ל (ראה להלן בסעיף ‘רטש’)].

10  [וכן על  הפסקה / עזיבה]: יריח:יד – אִם יִנָּתְשׁוּ מַיִם; תי – לָא יִפְסְקוּן מִמְטַר. רשי – אם ינתשו מים – אם יעזבו מים.

11  [ושם נרדף לפטיש הוא “מפיץ” לפי המפרשים]: משליכה:יח – מֵפִיץ וְחֶרֶב וְחֵץ שָׁנוּן אִישׁ עֹנֶה בְרֵעֵהוּ עֵד שָׁקֶר; אלשיך – מפיץ הוא פטיש יפוצץ וישבר סלעים; מלבים – מפיץ. פטיש המפוצץ סלעים, מפץ אתה לי (ירמיה נא:כ).

12  [ופי’ נימוקי יוסף שהיא לשון  פישוטזרועות]: ניבבד. – לעשות מחיצה י’ טפחים בין הגגים כדי שאם יעבור שום אחד מהם לגג חבירו יהא נתפס כגנב ולא מצי משתמט ולומר אימצוריה – כמו אימזורי, כדכתיב: ויזורר הנער, דהיינו פישוט עצמות (מ”ב ד). [והשוה רבינו חננאל שם; וכן הביא ערוך, ערך ‘מצר’ ב’. ועכ”פ הכל ענין  התפשטותוהשתרע].

13  [מעין פיזור והתפשטות הרוח והלחלוחית שגורמת העטישה].

14  [“תפילת טל” חוברה ע”י ר’ אליעזר הקליר (עלי תמר, ירוש’ תענית א:א)].

15  [וקרובה “זורר” למלאכת “זורה” (ע’ רד”ק ‘זור’, ‘זרה’) ענין  פיזור, ומובא בירושלמי מקרה הדומה לעיטוש]: ירוששבתז:ב – רקק והפריחתו הרוח חייב משום זורה [נ.ב. – דין זה אינו מובא להלכה. ע’ תשובות רע”א א:כ לנימוקיו בענין].

1שאיג:כ – לִלְטוֹשׁ אִישׁ אֶת מַחֲרַשְׁתּוֹ; תי – לְחָרָפָא גְבַר יַת פְּרָשֵׁיהּ. תהז:יג– חַרְבּוֹ יִלְטוֹשׁ; רשי – פורביר”א בלע”ז; לעזירשי – לע”ז: פורבי”ר forbir , תרגום: לצחצח. [והוא גם לע”ז רש”י ל”ברק” באיוב כ:כה, כא:כד. וכן ל”למרק” ביר’ מו:ד. כולם מורים על  חידודוצחצוח, כי פעולות קשורות הן, הברזל המחודד הוא המבריק והמצוחצח והממורט (ומעין המשמעות המקורית של המלה  furbishבאנגלית, המורה על  השחזה ועל  הברקהוצחצוח)].

17  [כגון אביו של רד”ק]: סזכרוןלריקמחי (דף 71) – חלוף דטלנ”ת: לטושה, נטושה. 

18  [וכן בתלמוד פרש”י “נטושה” כלשון  השחזה, היינו  מחודדת]: סנהדריןצה: – אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא לגבריאל: מַגָּלְךָ נטושה?; רשי – מגלך נטושה – שחוזה מגלך להרוג את אלו.

19  [ויש להוסיף ג”כ שהשחזת אבנים טובות ומתכת גורמת לפיזור שיירים וזיקים לכל עבר].

20  [והעיר רר”ח נ”י על הביטוי “דבי נשא” המופיע רבות בתלמוד (רש”י [שבת כג:] פ’ או כלשון אביו או חמיו), שהציע בעל המוסף הערוך שמקורו מענין  שכחה]: ערוך (נשאא‘) – גברא דזבן אדעא אמצרי דבי נשא (ב”ב יב:) – פי’ סמוך לשדה של חמיו… א”ב – פי’ בית הנשכח, כי הנשים הנשואות שוכחות בית אביהם, מלשון: נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹהִים אֶת… בֵּית אָבִי (בר’ מא:נא).

21  [והשוה תורה תמימה (דב’ לב, אות נח) שהציע ששרש “תשי” הוא ‘נתש’, כלש’ “תש כחו”, חלש. וראה גם תורת חיים (ר’ אברהם שור, לובלין, שנת שפ”ד) לסנהד’ מו., שפ’ “תשי” כלש’  טלטול, כמו “ויתשם”. וראה גם מדרש שכל טוב (בובר) בר’ לב:לג, שפ’ את לש’ “גיד הנשה” בעצמה מענין  שכחה, והציע שיסוד כולם  חלש. (והשוה גם רד”ק, ערך ‘נשה’)].

22  [היינו את הפסוקים “ונשיתי” ו”נשני” שמביא רש”י בפירושיו (המובאים כאן)].

23  [שכן במקום אחר השווה רש”י את עניני “עקירה” ו”קפיצה”]: בראשיתכח:יז– אֵין זֶה כִּי אִם בֵּית אֱלֹהִים וְזֶה שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם; רשי – שנעקר הר המוריה ובא לכאן, וזו היא קפיצת הארץ האמורה.

24  [רד”ק חברו בערך ‘נשת’, ומנחם חברו בערך ‘שת’ (מחלקה ה’), ע”ש].

25  [ושמא יש להציע שגם רש”י רמז שהמושגים “עקירה” ו”שכחה” קרובי ענין הם (היינו  עקירתהזכרון), ולכן הסביר את רוב נגזרי שרש ‘נשה’ כלשון  עקירה בעוד שפירש “תשי” כלשון  שכחה. וכן לפירוש ב’ של רש”י, הרי  התשתכח אינה אלא עקירת כח, בדרך החלשה טבעית].

26 Rashi explains the significance of the number 424 is that it is the Gematria of the word “זרזיר” (greyhound), and the fact that Phineas “waited” is alluded to in the word “thigh” (מתנים””, which is similar to “המתנה”(.

27  [ופסוק זה במשלי נדרש כל’  התשתכח גם בדרך אחרת]: איכהרבהה:א – ר’ יצחק פתח: זַרְזִיר מָתְנַיִם אוֹ תָיִשׁ (משלי ל:לא), בנוהג שבעולם אדם מגדל שני זרזרין בתוך ביתו אחד גדול ואחד קטן כובש את הגדול לפני הקטן; חידושירדל – כובש את הגדול לפני הקטן – דרש או תייש שמתיש כח הזרזיר הגדול, אשר כח במתניו (ודרש “או” כמו “דהא” לפני הקטן).

28  [היינו שנדרשת מהמלה “תיש” שמעשה הבעילה מתשת את כח האדם (וכלשון רמב”ם [דעות ד:יט] “כל השטוף בבעילה זקנה קופצת עליו, וכחו תשש”). ושמא יש לרמוז מכאן קשר גם לחיוב עונת האשה שנלמד מן התיש והאיל (אולי לרמוז נדרש איל וכח, אבל כח זה הולך ותשש), כמובא ברש”י, פ’ וישלח]: ברלב:טו – עִזִּים מָאתַיִם וּתְיָשִׁים עֶשְׂרִים רְחֵלִים מָאתַיִם וְאֵילִים עֶשְׂרִים; רשי – עזים מאתים ותישים עשרים – מאתים עזים צריכות עשרים תישים… ובבראשית רבה (עו:ז) דורש מכאן לעונה האמורה בתורה… הספנים אחת לששה חדשים… נראה בעיני שלמדנו מכאן שאין העונה שוה בכל אדם אלא לפי טורח המוטל עליו, שמצינו כאן שמסר לכל תיש עשרה עזים… ולגמלים שהולכים דרך יותר רחוקה נקבה אחת לזכר.

29  [כפי שרש”י פירש לשון ‘נתש’  כעקירה מהשרש, כגון]: ירכד:ו – וּנְטַעְתִּים וְלֹא אֶתּוֹשׁ; רשי – אתוש – ל’ עקירה. [וכך נקט במלה זו בפתרון שרש ‘נסח’ (וגם “לְשָׁרֵשׁ” במובן  תלישהמהשרש)]: דבכח:סג – וְנִסַּחְתֶּם מֵעַל הָאֲדָמָה; רשי – ונסחתם – ל’ עקירה וכן: בית גאים יסח (משלי טו:כה), איובלא:ח – וְצֶאֱצָאַי יְשֹׁרָשׁוּ; רשי – וצאצאי ישורשו – יעקרו השרשין.

30  מדרש תהלים סה:ו.