Thursday, April 14, 2016

Word Association

Apologies for the lack of a formal structure. These are some thoughts that occurred to me this morning. Instead of merely jotting them down, I figured I'd write them here.  The word association occurred to me when looking at this verse during a class by Michal Horowitz that I attended this morning in Sefer Shmos 12:3:
דַּבְּרוּ אֶל כָּל עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר בֶּעָשׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה וְיִקְחוּ לָהֶם אִישׁ שֶׂה לְבֵית אָבֹת שֶׂה לַבָּיִת

Looking at  asor עָשׂר the word for 10th made me think of how the same letters with a  change in vowels can be read ashir and that transposing the letters seir, a goat. The associations I considered were the following.
We call matzah lechem oni [poor man's bread]. The flat, plain form of bread presents a contrast to the rich bread that rises with a leavening agent. It becomes lechem ashir as a result of the addition of seor. It's a small thing, but it makes all the difference. The seor (same sound for the letters but with an aleph instead of an ayin)  is identified with the yetzer hara, as Chazal say, that we want to do what's right, but the seor in the dough prevents us.  
The other representation of the  yetzer hara is the seir, as illustrated concretely in the Yom Kippur service that includes a seir leazael. Just as we represent ridding ourselves of what keeps us from inclining to good then, we do so on Pesach by banning all seor and its resulting chametz.

Another word in the verse cited above,  לַבָּיִת,  made me think of a Purim theme, but I'm not going to wait 11 months to write it down. So bear with me. Mrs. Horowitz cited the Rav as saying that what בָּיִת [household] represents in this context is community. I then thought of the famous Midrash cited by Rashi on Megillas Esther. The text says that Mordechai took Esther lebas [for a daughter]. The Midrash reads it as lebayis to hint at his having married her. However, on the basis of what the Rav said about the house standing for community there could be a more profound significance to the reading of  lebayis, that of making Esther see herself as part of the larger Jewish community. Certainly, that is what Mordechai tells her later on when he warns her that there is no self-preservation possible when the Jews are threatened -- only salvation for the whole community.

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Revisiting a Pesach and Rosh Chodesh theme

For Rosh Chodesh or Pesach: haysa Yehudah lekadsho

As it is to soon be Rosh Chodesh Nissan, when we start really anticipating the holiday of Pesach (I meant those of us who aren't neurotic enough to start planning the day after Chanukah) I thought I'd share a piece I posted back in 2008 for Rosh Chodesh or Pesach. It was based on what  Rabbi Nosson Greenberg (currently  rav of Cong Machzikei Torah in Far Rockaway) said.

 He quoted a vort from Ma'ase Nissim by Rav Yaakov meLissa about one of the "Betzeys Yisrael Mimitzrayim"part of Hallel. The verse says "haysa Yehudah lekadsho,"pointing to the kiddush Hashem of the head of shevet Yehudah, Nacshon ben Aminadav, in jumping into the Yam Sufbefore it split. Rav Yaakov asks why the feminine form of the verb to be is used in "haysa"and answers that the verb references Tamar whose mesiras nefesh was behind the heroism of the day. She was willing to be killed rather than publicly shame Yehudah by naming him as the father of her unborn twins. As the matriarch of the tribe of Yehudah, she imbued this remarkable ability into her offspring. Thus Nachson acted as his great-great-great [I didn't count up actual number of generations] grandmother did in risking his life by plunging into the water.

It's a nice vort which got me to think of another possible interpretation of the use of the feminine verb in this instance, going back yet another generation (or 2, depending on how you look at it). I thought of Leah's naming Yehudah with the reason "hapa'am odeh es Hashem"-- this time I will give thanks to Hashem. Generations later, Yehudah's tribal head brought this idea to fruition for all of klal Yisrael. Krias Yam Suf gave rise toshirah, in which all the Jews gave thanks to Hashem for their salvation in words of song. Yehudahs embodied hoda'ah, which found its expression in Shiras Hayam.

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Passover desserts