Thursday, October 27, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Noach (Noah) Genesis 6:9 – 11:32

 Our Parasha spans the Flood, its causes, and its aftermath, leading to events related to the Tower of Babel and to the subsequent dispersion of humanity. Here, as is the case in many of the other Parashot*, we find certain keywords (words stemming from the same three-letter root) which are repeated within a given passage, or strewn throughout the text.

In Parashat* B’resheet (in Gen. 5:29), Noach’s name was explained: “Now he called his name Noach, saying, this one will comfort us “. The root of “comfort” in this instance, is (nun, chet, mem), pronounced nachem. Noach’s name, however, does not contain the consonant “m” (the letter “mem” in Hebrew). And whereas in his evil generation he was a comfort to Elohim, his name actually means “rest” (, noon, vav, chet). At the end of Parashat B’resheet (6:6), there is another reference to the root We read there, “And YHVH repented [or “regretted” that is, “was sorry”] that He had made man on the earth”. In this case “regretted” is “(va)yinachem”. But how is “comfort” related to “regret” or to “being sorry”? The root’s primary meaning is to be “sorry” or to "reconsider" which indicates that only deep empathy with another’s sorrow can be a source of genuine comfort at a time of grief. Conversely, a change of attitude or direction may also bring comfort and relief.  Moreover, a close examination of Lamech’s words reveals what it was that he was lamenting, and why he was hoping that his newborn would be a “comfort” concerning (literal translation): “our toil and sorrow of our hands, from the ground which YHVH cursed”. In his lament, Lamech was echoing YHVH’s words in 3:17 to Adam (literal translation): “Cursed is the ground for your sake, in sorrow you shall eat of it…” Lamech repeats the three terms used in 3:17, being: “sorrow”, ground, and "cursed". 

At the end of Parashat Noach, an explanation is given for the name Ba’vel (Babel). According to 11:9 “Ba’vel” was so named because “there Elohim confused the language” of the builders of the tower. However, the verb “confuse”, used here is “balal” and even though similar in sound, Ba'vel does not originate from this root and actually means (in the Sumerian and Acadian languages) “Gate of El”. The names Noach and Ba’vel are two examples of how the Tanach (O.T.) employs puns in order to drive a point while overlooking grammatical accuracy (for another such case refer to Yehoshua-Joshua 5:9).

 In spite of the sought-after-comfort-cum-rest, ironically, Noach lived at a time of great unrest, a fact that led to the natural disaster that befell his contemporaries. Yet in the midst of it all, calm could be had in the 'eye of the storm' represented by the one who was found righteous at that time (ref. 6:9; 7:1), and by the place of refuge that he was constructing. In 8:4 we find the ark “resting upon the mountains of Ararat” (italics added). Following the raven, a dove was sent out “to see if the water had abated… and [she] found no resting place for the sole of her foot… “(8:8, 9 italics added). Rest is depicted here, and even highlighted, against the backdrop of the grave catastrophe. When Noach, his family, and the animals emerged out of the ark, Noach built an altar. In 8:21 we read, “And YHVH smelled the soothing aroma”. The word for “soothing” is “nicho’ach”, which once again originates with the root “rest”.

 The dove was sent “to see if the water had receded” (8:8). “Receded” in this case is “kalu”, spelled with the letter “kof” rather than with the expected “kaf” (which would have meant, “finished, done, complete”).  The word “kalu” as it appears here means “having become light, or of little substance” from which stems “k’lala”- "curse" (and literally, to “make something of light esteem”).  In 8:21 YHVH says: “I will never again curse [a’ka’lel] the ground”. Is the unusual form of “recede”, as used here, inferring to the fact that?the?cause?for?the?great?deluge?was YHVH’s curse?

Last week we dealt with the root of “erev” (“evening”), which means a “pledge” and a “mixture” (being but two of its several meanings) … This time it is the “raven” (“orev”) which shares this root. The association between “raven” and “evening” is found in the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) 5:11, where the beloved’s dark curls are compared to the dark raven. The black fowl, therefore, borrows its name from the evening’s fading light (i.e., darkness).

Mankind’s corruption is highlighted in 6:11. The word used there is “tisha’chet”, of the root (shin, chet, tav), which primarily means to “destroy or destruction”. In verses 12, 13 and 17 derivatives of this root appear four times as “corruption” and also as the verb for the “destruction” that YHVH was about to bring upon the entire earth and its inhabitants (v. 13). Inherent in the verb “sha’chot”, therefore, is corruption's self-destructiveness. In Yishayahu (Isaiah) 11:9 (and 65:25) we read the following: “They shall not hurt nor destroy – yash’chitu - in all My holy mountain”.

Interestingly and in a strangely similar way, the condition of ‘no destruction’ ("lo yashchitu") is also characterized by water, as Isaiah 11:9 continues: “… for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHVH as the waters cover the sea”, which in our narrative is the agent of annihilation. Additionally, the impact of the verb “sha’chot” (with the letter “tav” at the end) receives an extra emphasis, as it evokes a similar sounding verb ending with a different “t” consonant (“tet”), which is to “slaughter” (e.g., Exodus 29:11,16, 20).

The other noun repeated in chapter 6 is “chamas” (ch.m.s, chet, mem, samech), translated as “violence”: “…And the earth was filled with violence” (vs. 11, 13). As a rule, the noun/verb “chamas” is connected to sinful acts of violence and injustice. “Chamas” rhymes with another verb - “chamad” - which means to “delight” but also to “desire or covet” (as was the case with the fruit of the tree in Gen. 3:6, which seemed “desirable – nechmad - to make one wise”). Quite often similar sounding words, like “chamas” and “chamad” are also connected in meaning. Thus, the violent actions of “chamas” are motivated by covetousness or unbridled desire. (Is it a lingual coincidence that Chamas is also the name of the notorious terror organization, bearing in mind the similarities between Arabic and Hebrew?)

Planted right in the midst of these descriptions of corruption, violence, and pending destruction is the only (potential) solution: the ark - "tey'va". More than a millennium will pass, when another would-be savior will be protected by a "tey'va" (though translated as "basket" in English), which will also float on water. This will be Moshe. In the process of building this ark, our attention is first drawn to the act of propitiation and atonement: “kippur”. “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood… and… cover it inside and out with pitch" (6:14 italics added). The verb and noun for the action (of “covering”) and the material itself (“pitch”) are of the root k.f.r (kaf, pey/fey* resh) – which makes up “kippur”. Thus, this ark was to become a shelter, offering a protective covering from the disasters resulting from the sins of the age. The rabbis believe that anyone among those who had watched it being built, through the many years of its construction, could have also found refuge in it. Instead, the spectators chose to scoff and ridicule its builder. In most other cases, the verb and the noun stemming from the root k.f.r are used directly in connection with “atonement” (e.g., Daniel 9:24), or as “payment of a price, or ransom” (e.g., Num. 35:31).

The very principles of atonement, and the reasons for its requirement, also find expression in our Parasha. Thus, we read in chapter 9:4-6: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning … From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed…”  Indeed, for atonement to be effective blood is imperative.

The importance of covering is brought out one more time in our Parasha, in the story of Noach’s three sons’ respective responses to their father's drunken stupor. Cham (Ham), the son who looked upon his father’s nakedness, was condemned to slavery by a curse which was pronounced upon his son, Cna’an (Canaan) (9:25), whose name stems from the root to?“subdue”?or be?”subdued”?(k.n.a, kaf, noon, ayin).

The other two siblings, on the other hand, are said to have covered their father’s naked body.

Notice how the escalation and acceleration of the waters increase, on the one hand, serve as the platform on which the ark is raised higher and higher, on the other. Thus, we read: "The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters"(7:17-18 italics added).

"And it happened in the six hundred and first year, at the beginning, on the first of the month that the waters were dried up from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked. And, behold, the face of the earth was dried!” (8:13). “Dried” in both instances in the above verse is “cha’rvu”. In 7:22 we read, “All that was in the dry land, died”. Once again, “dry land” is “charava”. Both the verb, as well as the noun, are of the root ch.r.v (chet, resh, bet/vet) which is also the root for “waste, desolate, attack, sword, plunder, wage war, fight” and more. In Hebrew thought “dryness”, denoting lack of water and rain (and hence drought), is commensurate with terms associated with lifelessness and destruction, which points to the shortage of water characterizing the land of Israel (even before the latter?is?ever mentioned!)

When they emerged out of the ark, Noach and his family were given the same ‘marching orders’ as Adam, their predecessor. Humanity’s survivors were to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. The injunction to be fruitful is “pru”. In the 10th generation, one of Noach’s descendants, Avram (Abram), will be informed by the bestowal of a blessing that, he will become “fruitful” (Gen. 17:6), while four generations after that event, Avraham’s grandson will be named, in faith, “multiple fruitfulness?-?that?is,?Ephraim. However, one striking difference between Elohim’s blessing and charge to and over Noach and his sons and the one over Adam’s, is that this time the Almighty declares that “the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast…  bird … and on all that moves on the earth, and on all the fish…” (Gen. 9:2). Notice that the “fear and dread” are absent from YHVH’s word to Adam regarding the latter’s “subduing” of the earth and the “dominion” he was to have over all that lives and moves (ref. Gen. 1:26, 28).

 Among the many names found in our Parasha, there are three, in particular, that call for our attention. The first two persons are second cousins: Yefet’s (Japheth) grandson, the son of Yavan (Javan) is Dodanim (or Rodanim, as he is called in 1 Ch. 1:7), the second is Cham’s (Ham) grandson, the son of Cush – Nimrod.

Yavan is the Hebrew word for Greece. Down the road of history, Greece will become a major power of unprecedented influence over the entire world in a number of areas, one of which will be government (democracy). Yavan’s son’s two names, Dodanim and Rodanim (see 1st Chron. 1:6) mean, respectively, “cousins and rulers” (“rdu”, connected to Rodanim, is the verb YHVH used when He told Adam and Chava to subdue the earth in Gen. 1:28). His cousin, Cham’s grandson, Nimrod, is the one who built Ba’vel; a place which will become synonymous with the world’s hierarchal systems, especially as pertaining to religious matters. Nimrod means, “we will rebel”, and rebelling he does by setting up his own kingdom, as a direct counterfeit of Elohim’s kingdom (10:10).

In the following generation, we have the son of the third cousin, Shelach, whose name was Ever, who is of the firstborn lineage. It is his name that is given to the entire race - the Hebrews (“Ivrim”) who are to represent Elohim’s Kingdom on earth. The name Ever is derived from the verb “pass or cross over”, a fact that this race will be demonstrating throughout biblical history, beginning with Avram. We will observe the Hebrews passing over from one place, or condition, to another, whether in a physical sense or otherwise, in order to earn the name of their forbearer.

The generation of the “cousins” (is it a coincidence that one of them, as mentioned, is actually named “Dodanim”- cousins?) is unique, having left its imprint upon humanity to this?very day.

It says that Noach and his sons were to “fill the land/earth”. It is quite likely that this “filling” was not meant only in a physical sense. Nimrod and the other inhabitants of the land of Shinar rebelled against Elohim and busied themselves by erecting a tower, which, by their own admittance was designed to prevent their scattering ( noon, pey/fey, tzadi) on earth (ref. 11:4). But in verse 8 it says that YHVH Himself “scattered” them – va’yafetz (being of the same root as used by the builders of the tower). In verse 3 “they say to one another, come let us make bricks…” and in verse 5, they say once again, “come let us build ourselves a city…”. In both cases, “let us” is “ha’vah”. YHVH’s watchful eye over them is underscored by His “let us” – ha’vah – when He says in verse 7: “Come, let us go down…” etc

Earlier, in 9:19, it says about the sons of Noach that, “the whole earth was populated by them”, with the verb “populated” being literally “scattered” (the same one as used in 11:4, 8). The “scattering” was YHVH-initiated because, “indeed, the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they will begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (11:6). “Propose to do” is “yazmu”, which in Modern Hebrew refers to “initiatives” and “entrepreneurship”, but in Biblical Hebrew the root y.z.m. means  “unrestrained activity”, and not surprisingly is analogous to the verbs  “zamom” which is “to devise wickedness”, and “zimah” which is  “to lust”.

At the very end of the Parasha (11:26ff), we are introduced to the “exalted father” - Av’ram, whose goings forth, preceded by the command “lech lecha” (“go!”), will be reported next, in the Parasha?by?the?same?name.

Parashot - plural of Parasha (feminine gender)


*Parashat – “Parasha of…”

* The p and f sounds are designated by the same letter and may be pronounced as “p” in one form of the word, and as an “f” in another. The same is also true about the “b” and “v” sounds.


Friday, October 21, 2022

By the Name of Messiah Yeshua

 It seems that it was just yesterday when we honored YHVH’s feast of Passover, and now here we are already past Succot and beginning the reading of the Torah Parashot all over again.  As recipients of the New Covenant, we do not only remember our natural history, but also an ongoing history of new creation life in Messiah Yeshua.  In light of this status, I want to review one of my Prayer Psalms and adjust it to life in the spirit.  In the Psalms we often read about the (human) enemy, such as:  “Be gracious to me, O Elohim, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me.  My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me” (Psalm 56:1-2).  But Ephesians 6:12, for example, states that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places”. 

Psalm 135:5 declares emphatically that, “YHVH is great and that our Adon [Master] is above all elohims [i.e., principalities and dominions] (literal Hebrew translation).

In the following scripture, we are again reminded that “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of Elohim, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

The Father has given Yeshua His authority to carry out His will upon this earthly realm.  The role of Yeshua, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 is to “…abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet”. Thus, greater is He (the Spirit of the Son) in us than he that is in the world.  Yeshua and His Father are One. This is what He conveyed to His disciples. He, therefore, has all the attributes of His Father. Hence, what we know and understand about the Father is also seen in the Son; there is no distinction except that one is “The Father”, and the other is “The Son”.  

At the “last supper”, when addressing His disciples, Yeshua made the following powerful statement:  "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him". I can imagine what went through the minds of the disciples at that moment… Philip’s response, no doubt, would have been ours too:  ‘Oh ya, we know you Yeshua, but we want to know the Father.  In the past you have already said to us: "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).  ‘So now would you please show us, or give us some indication as to who the Father is'.    “Yeshua said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me [Ephraim]? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father '?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.  Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14:7-11). 

The early apostles all knew in what name and authority the Spirit was operating.   Acts 4:8-10 gives an account of Peter, who when filled with the Holy Spirit, declared to the "rulers and elders of the people,  ‘if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well,  let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Messiah Yeshua the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom Elohim raised from the dead-- by this name this man stands here before you in good health’”.

Here is an example of an adapted Prayer Psalm for a New Covenant Believer.

“Be merciful to me, Yeshua - Elohey Chesed (God of Mercy).  My spiritual enemies hound me all day, for there are many who fight against me, they want to swallow me up; fighting all day they oppress me. O Yeshua El Elyon (Most High), all day they twist my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil.  They gather together; they hide, they mark my steps and my thoughts when they lie in wait for my life.  Shall they escape by iniquity?  In anger cast down these principalities and powers, for You Yeshua are M’gee’nee (my Protector/Shield).  My enemies will turn back when I cry out to You, Moshi’ee (my Savior/Deliverer); this I know because You are for me Yeshua, and are in me. You measure out my wanderings, and put my tears into Your skin flask, for are they not already written in Your book? Even vows made to You are binding upon me, Shofet Tzedek (Judge of Righteousness); therefore I will render praises to You Yeshua, El Tikvatee (my Hope), and whenever I am afraid I will trust in You.  (adjusted from Prayer Psalm 56). 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat B’resheet – Genesis 1:1-6:8


The Hebrew language is characterized by remarkable conciseness, which allows information to be conveyed in very succinct forms.  Along with that, it is also a very picturesque language, and thus often content and form (in the Tanach, especially) are congruous. This first Parasha, being as it is, a narrative of the origins, is replete with information, eternal patterns, and principles, yet all are communicated very briefly, with matching terms that deserve specific attention.  Although this time we will not cover the full gamut of terms included in Parashat (“Parasha of”) B’resheet, in the weeks to come some of them will show up in other Parashot (Parasha in plural form), and it is then that we will try to do them justice.  

God’s name appears here as the composite “Elohim”, of the root “el” meaning “strong, mighty, powerful”. Elohim is in the plural form, a fact that lends the word much greater dimensions. But in addition to that, Elohim not only includes “El”, but also “Eloha”, yet one more word, of the same root, for the Almighty, both forming the plural “Elohim”. 

B’resheet is both the name of the first Parasha, and the name of the book of Genesis. “B’resheet bara Elohim…” At the first, beginning –b’resheet - created - bara – Elohim - God. The meaning of r’sheet is “first, beginning, start, and prominence” and it stems from the root (resh, alef, shin) - “head”. (Notice the river in 2:10 that comes out of Eden and divides into four streams. The latter - i.e. the “streams” - are also called here “heads”). The usage of this phraseology, therefore, establishes a foundation that the prime and first cause is Elohim, who is the initiator of everything.  Colossians 1:16, 18 says of Messiah Yeshua: “For by Him all things were created, in the heavens and on earth… He is also the head of the Body… and He is the beginning… so that He might come to have first place in everything” (italics added).  This passage indeed exhausts “r’sheet” to its fullest.  Interestingly, the very first 3 letters which constitute the Bible’s opening word, “b’re(sheet)”, are also the same as the ones that make up the next word, “bara”, which is “created” (the letters being bet, resh, alef). Thus, “created” appears twice in a row at the very beginning of the Holy Writ, as if to add an extra emphasis to the fact that Elohim is truly the Creator. Note that the verb “bara” - to “create” - refers exclusively to the Creator, and never to man. The adjective for “healthy” or “fat” – “bari” (such as in Gen. 41:2; Jud. 3:17) also stems from the same root, as do verbs such as, to “clear up” an area (e.g. Josh. 17:15, 18), and “eat” (2nd Sam. 12:17); the latter two being almost contrary to each other. This, as well as other connected verbs, point to the act of creation as being multi-faceted. In fact, the primary meaning of “bara” is to “release the varying elements or materials so as to enable them to exist, materialize, express themselves, or grow”.   

The initial and foundational act of creation culminates with, “And Elohim called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (v. 5).  This “one day”, rather than “first day”, is “yom echad” unlike the rest of the days, which are termed, “second, third…” etc. Since “echad” -  unity of plurality – is such a significant term, and is attached to Elohim’s nature (“hear Oh Yisrael, YHVH our Elohim is ‘one’) its usage here underscores the Presence of Elohim in the creation process, emphasizing the fact that the “one day” will continue to accompany the creation of each of the subsequent days.  A “latter day” passage in Zechariah 14:6-9, which appears to take us full circle, states the following: “It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. It shall be one day which is known to YHVH -- neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light.  And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem… And YHVH shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be that YHVH will be one and His name one” (literal translation, italics added. Also notice the creation ‘elements’ of water and light).    

The act of creation involved processes of separation.  Elohim separated light from darkness (Gen. 1:4); water from water (vv. 6, 7).  He created the lights in the heaven to separate the night from the day (v. 14-16, 18), and the seasons one from the other.  He also distinguished between the different types of flora and fauna (vv 11, 12), between man and woman, and finally between the weekdays and the Shabbat.  The verb used for separating is “havdel” (of the root b.d.l, bet, dalet, lamed), to “divide or separate”, but also to “distinguish”. One word about light and darkness: The word for darkness is choshech ( - chet, shin, kaf). The verb for depriving or withhold (as it appears in Genesis 39:9, for example) shares a very similar root - (chet, sin, kaf). Thus, the small vowel change, of the letter "shin" into a "sin", reveals that "darkness" is simply a condition in which light is being withheld and is therefore only a "default state". 

But when He separated the water from the land (or brought forth the land from the water), Elohim said: “Let the water under the heavens be gathered - yikavu - to one place” (1:9).  A “mikveh” is, therefore, a place of the gathering of water and stems from the root k.v.h.(kof, vav, hey), which is also the word for hope". Each time the English Bible says “wait for YHVH” the verb in Hebrew is “kaveh”. Thus, our hope is found while we are being gathered to Him who is our Mikveh: “Oh YHVH, the hope ("mikveh" here, rather than the standard "tikva") of Israel…" is the cry of the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) in 17:13.  According to Romans 6:3-5 we have been immersed into Him, which makes Him the mikveh (place of immersion), “for in hope we have been saved” (Rom. 8:24 italics added). Our hope, then, lies in the fact that we are in Him, and He is in us, and therefore we walk now in new life (see Rom. 6:4) as a new creation.  Thus, the "mikveh" stands for a place of being gathered to and for 'immersion in hope', seen both in the act of creation and in the act of the spiritual re-birth. 

The progressive process of creation renders each day's accomplishment a preparation for the one that will follow.  And whereas above we touched on the 'separation' aspect of creation, here we see its integrative aspect.  Separation and integration, though seemingly mutually exclusive, actually work hand in hand and are typical of the Hebraic mind and character, and nowhere is this better exemplified than in the first and second chapters of the Bible. 

Although each day's creative work was different from the next, the days were separated one from the other in an identical manner, by an evening and a morning.  This ‘feature’ set the pattern for the days that were to come, which unlike the days of creation, would be identical or similar to one another.  The day began in the evening - erev - and it is interesting to note that among its many meanings, “erev” also means a “pledge” or a “guarantee”.  Thus, the promise of the day to come is found in the twilight of its predecessor.  Boker” - "morning" - is another word rich in diverse meanings, one of which is to “inquire, frequent or visit”, connoting concern and care (see Ezk. 34:11,12). Once again, there is an assurance for things hoped for from the One who is in charge of Time and who operates within it (e.g., Jer. 33:25, Lam. 3:22-23). One example of YHVH regarding Time is made apparent in 2:2, where He is seen “resting” (after having completed His work), while the word in Hebrew is “sha’vat” of the root sh.b/v.t* meaning to cease, and is similar to the root - to "sit”. It is this root that also forms the word “Shabbat”. 

As for the pinnacle of creation, man and woman, they were created "in the image and likeness" of their Creator (1:26).  Image” is "tzelem" - from the root “tzel” which is a “shadow”. At best a human being may reflect the Almighty in the same way a two-dimensional shadow 'represents' (as a shadow) a three-dimensional object. “Likeness” is “d'moot”, which contains the word “dam”  – "blood" (from which are derived words such as “adama” for “earth”, “adom” for “red” and “adam” - “man”).  Here we see a clear connection to the Messiah, who incarnated in a flesh and blood body as the “Last Adam”.  Man and woman were created differently and at different times, yet “in the image (tzelem) of Elohim created He him, male and female created He them” (v. 27). Once again, we see differentiation and oneness together.  He - man - was created both male and female, and likewise, the male and the female together reflect the "tzelem" of the one Elohim. In 2:24 we read that they were to become “one flesh”, and yet that could only take place after woman was taken out (separated) from man’s body (ref. 2:21). The woman’s formation was totally different from that of the man’s. Not only was she formed from the rib taken out of Adam’s side, but that act of formation is called “building” – va’yiven – literally, “and He [Elohim] built the rib which He took from the man, into a woman…” (2:22). 

One more point concerning this union: In 2: 18, 20 the woman, the "help suitable" (as translated in most versions) for man, is described literally as a help “contrary or opposite” to him – “ezer ke’negdo” (“neged” being “in front of” or “opposite to”).  Originally, Chava* (Eve) was to be Adam’s counterpart, compatible with him. The two were to complement one another as two opposite forces do, attracting and polarizing at the same time.   

In the last verse of chapter 2 we read: ”And they were both naked ("aroomim"/plural), the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (v. 25).  In 3:7 a major change takes place: “And the eyes of the two of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed for themselves girdles of fig leaves”. The man and his wife made for themselves coverings from the leaves of a fig tree. The latter alludes to their attitude, as the word for “fig” - t'ena – is closely related to “to'ana” which is a “pretext” or “looking for excuses”. In Shoftim (Judges) 14:4 Shimshon (Samson) is seen looking for such a pretext or “an occasion against the Philistines”. In 3:21 we are told that Elohim “clothed them - va’yalbishem,” the root being, which is the verb for “dress” and also forms the word for “clothes, garment ” – l’vush or malbush. We just noted that “the man and his wife were naked and not ashamed”, (plural) “lo yit’boshashu” of the root (bet, vav, shin). Thus, although of no etymological connection, because of the similarity of consonants some rabbinical interpretations connect “l’vush” - garment - to “bosh” - “shame” (remember the b and v sounds are interchangeable), as indeed the garment’s purpose was to meet the need awakened by the shame of being naked. 

In the last episode depicting our protagonists, we see them being sent ("expelled" in Hebrew) out of the Garden of Eden (Gan, of g.n.n which means protection, and Eden, which is delight), but not without a hint of hope.  East of Eden, Elohim placed the Cherubim and the two-edged ("revolving") sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life (ref. 3:24).  This image conjures up another - one in which Cherubim were also placed above a "sword", that is the sword of the Word (see Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12), in the form of the tablets written by Moshe. These tablets were placed in the ark, above which an image of two Cherubim was installed.  Is this a subtle picture, inserted into the somber scene of the expulsion, of a future Holy of Holies where atonement (covering) was to be made? Once the Holy of Holies (through the ultimate atonement) became accessible to all, so did the way to the Tree of Life, through Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

The post-Edenic life was very different from that which Adam and Chava had experienced prior to their act of disobedience – this is evidenced by the life of their progeny. The story of Kayin and Hevel demonstrates the immediate results that followed the great transformation which took place in man’s disposition. In fact, the description of the events in chapter 4 is replete with linguistic connections to the previous chapter, a fact that illustrates the direct link that the parents’ actions and attitudes had on their posterity. Let us follow a little chart of such comparisons, in literal Hebrew translation. But just prior to that, we will pause to ponder Chava’s reason for naming her firstborn as she did. “I have acquired a man from YHVH” (4:1), were her words. “Acquired” – “kaniti” (k.n.h – kof, noon, hey) – to buy or purchase. Was she under the impression that her suffering at childbirth was the price she was paying for having a son? Purchasing is also a function of a redeemer (who buys back his next of kin who has been taken captive, for example). Was Chava mistakenly seeing herself as a “redeemer” of her firstborn? If so, did the birth of the next son bring with it disillusion, and thus he was named “Hevel” – “futility” (literally the “mist that comes forth from one’s breath”)?



Chapter 4


v. 2 Cain was a tiller of the ground




v. 7 If you do well you will be

carried [accepted] but if you do not do well sin crouches at the opening and to you is its desire but you will rule it



v. 9 Am I my brother’s keeper?


v. 10 The voice of your brother’s

blood is crying to Me from the ground

v. 11 So now you are cursed from the ground

v. 12 When you work [till] the ground it shall no longer yield its strength to you


v. 14 You have driven me out today from the face of the ground/earth and I shall be hidden from Your face

NOTE: “hidden” is “esa’ter”




v. 16 And Cain went out from the presence of YHVH and dwelt in the land of Nod east of Eden


Chapter 3


v. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground from which you were taken


v. 13 And the woman said, the serpent has caused me to be beguiled and I ate

v. 16 and to him [your husband] is your desire and he will rule you *


ch. 2:15 And YHVH Elohim took man and put him in the garden to till and keep it

Back to chapter 3

v. 10 I heard your voice in the garden and was afraid

v. 17 Cursed is the ground for your sake, in sorrow you shall eat of it

v. 23-24: YHVH Elohim drove him out… of the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken


v. 8 And the man and his wife hid from YHVH Elohim

v. 10 And I was afraid, because I was naked and hid myself

NOTE: “hid” is ‘et’chabeh’


v. 24 And He drove out the man and He placed the cherubim east of the garden of Eden




Kayin's fate was to be a "wanderer and a fugitive on the earth" (4:12,14) – na va'nad. "Na" stems from the root n.o.oa (nun, vav, ayin) meaning "movement", while "nad" is from the root n.d.d (nun, dalet, dalet) – "wander, be a fugitive". Thus, the information supplied by verse 16: "So Cain went out from the presence of YHVH and lived [settled] in the land of Nod, east of Eden", is somewhat of an oxymoron. Living in the land… tells us that Kayin seemingly found a permanent place of residence. Moreover, in the next verse, he is also said to have "built a city" (another contradiction to being a "wanderer and a fugitive"). But here again, the name of the land of his residency gives away the condition of his 'settling' – Nod is of the same root that we just examined with its meaning of wandering or being a fugitive. Moreover, the name of his son – Chanoch – by which he named the city clues us as to the fact that he desired to pass on a legacy. The root (chet, nun, chet) means "inaugurate, bring up, educate/teach". Thus, it appears that Kayin had in mind to pass to his son a certain heritage or message, although, as we learn further, whatever that may have been with its resultant prosperity and inventiveness (as evidenced by the posterity) it also led to further violence and to the ultimate disappearance of this line (4:17-24). 

Finally, let us follow the genealogy of the forefathers as listed in chapter 5, which sketches the outline of the redemptive program, aside from the glimpse into this plan that is extrapolated in 3:15, about the Seed of woman that was destined to crush the head of the serpent. The names form the following: Man (Adam) is appointed (Shet) mortality (Enosh) and sorrow (Keinan).  One who praises EL (M’halal'el) will come down (Yared), teaching (Chanoch) that His death will send (Metushelach), the hidden king (Lemech, whose name contains the three letters for king, but not in the right order), and rest (No’ach). 


* B and V sound are denoted by the same letter – bet

* The “ch” consonant sound is the same as the “ch” in the Scottish “Loch.”

 * 4:7 “… if you do not do well sin crouches at the opening and to you is its desire but you will rule it”. 3:13 “...and to him [your husband] is your desire and he will rule you”. The usage of the same terminology in these 2 verses seems to create a parallel between “sin” and “woman/wife”, on one hand, and “Cain” (had he resorted to the right action, which he refused to do) and “Adam/man”, on the other. Such a parallel has the potential of conjecturing a very distorted idea about man-woman (husband-wife) relationship, specifically projecting a negative image on woman. Let us bear in mind that the consequences of sin in 3:16-19 constitute a sad description of what was about to transpire, and are (obviously) not injunctions on the part of YHVH – that is, they are not instructions. Above and beyond that, with the atonement that YHVH has provided through His Son, Yeshua, these conditions are no longer applicable to those who have been redeemed (e.g. 2nd Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20, 3:13; Eph. 1:3-8, 2:1-10, etc.). Thus, we read in the Song of Songs/Solomon 7:11: “I am my beloved’s and His desire is toward me” (emphasis added). In the restored state (tikkun) our Beloved bridegroom desires us! What solace, comfort and hope…!


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Hebrew insights into Parashat Ve’zot Habracha – D’varim (Deuteronomy) 33-34


The Torah’s last Parasha, with its prophetic blessings upon the People of Yisrael and the individual tribes, is also the last curtain for Moshe who takes his leave off the stage of history. We have seen the Patriarchs bless their sons before their departure, and now we view Moshe blessing the people whom he had carried in his bosom like a father (sometimes in spite of himself, ref. Num, 11:12) for over forty years.


The opening statement, “ve’zot habracha” (“and this is the blessing”), indicates that the first and more general component of the blessing (33:2-5) is part and parcel of one singular blessing that Moshe delivers as YHVH’s spirit rests upon him. That is to say that each tribe’s blessing is not separate from the word bestowed upon the nation as a whole. The very usage of “b’racha”, singular, implies that YHVH is considering each individual tribe as part of a complete entity. Moreover, employing the (seemingly unnecessary) “and” implies that the blessing is a continuation of what preceded its pronouncement. Interestingly, that which precedes the blessing are the stern words that YHVH utters to Moshe, who is prevented from entering the land and can only view it from afar. Thus, the "and", of the next chapter and verse that follow, are in sharp contrast to the previous words and can therefore be understood as a "but", or "in spite of…"


The glorious and majestic description of the giving of the Torah at Sinai is likened to an epiphany of YHVH Himself, denoted by His “coming”, “rising” and “shinning forth” over physical and geographical locations (ref 33:2). An equivalent description, although underscored by a more specific prophecy, is found in Chavakuk (Habakkuk) 3:3-4: “Elohim came from Teman, The Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise.   His brightness was like the light; He had rays flashing from His hand, and there His power was hidden”. These two excerpts seem to be related, though the latter may be a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. Interestingly, in “He came with ten thousands of saints” (back to the Parasha, 33:2), it is not the usual “ba” (“came”), but rather the Aramaicata”, evoking the Aramaic “maranatha” – or “maran ata” (Revelation 22:20) - that is, “Master come” or “the Master has come” (cf. v. 21, “he came – va’yete - with the heads of the people”).  The enigmatic meaning of these verses (2 and 3) is matched by the very words and syntax used, all of which are complex and extraordinary, presenting a challenging task for the commentators. The literal rendering, for example, of “ten thousands of saints”, mentioned in verse 2, is literally “ten thousands of holiness”, the word used there being “kodesh”. Thus, if the text is referring to “ten thousands of saints” or “holy ones”, why are “His holy ones” in the next verse (v. 3) rendered as “k’doshav” (“kadosh” - “holy one”), plain and simple? If in both cases the meaning is “His holy ones”, why are the terms not identical? Or, is it possible that “ten thousands of holiness” is not a reference to “saints” (or “angels” according to rabbinic interpretation) at all, but is a description of His abode (from which He is said to be coming) being “abundant in holiness”?


The next expression in the same verse (2) is no less problematic. That which is translated as either “firey law” or “flashing lightning” is “eshdat” in Hebrew, being a term that appears nowhere else. If broken in two it is: “e’sh” – fire – and “dat” – “law, edict” or “manner of things”. However, “dat” is found only in Esther, one time in Ezra, and in the Aramaic sections of Daniel, making its usage here, at such an early stage, totally doubtful. According to the B.D.B Lexicon “eshdat” was originally “esh yokeh-dat”, which is “burning fire” (with the first two syllables now missing). [1] According to this viewpoint, we should read, “On His right (that is by the right-hand side) is a burning fire”.


Verse 3 reads: “Indeed, He loves the people; all your holy ones are in Your hand, and they followed in Your steps, carrying Your words”. This presents several problems. It changes mid-sentence from third to second person. “He who loves the nations” or “peoples” is described as “chovev amim”. The root ch.v.v. (chet, vet, vet) – love dutifully – also forms the name Chovav, which is one of the names of Moshe’s father-in-law (ref. Num. 10:29). According to Daat Mikra, “even when He expresses love toward all peoples, ‘all His Holy ones’ are Yisrael and they are ‘in Your hand’”. Therefore the change to the second person in the second part of the verse denotes YHVH’s closeness to His people. Daat Mikra adds that the rest of the verse should read: “And they will be smitten at Your feet, and receive Your Word”, [2] whereas according to BDB the verb “tuku”, (“smitten”) is of dubious meaning and should therefore be understood as: “will be assembled”, as it is more compatible with the context. [3]


Yisrael’s present and future destiny is defined in the next two verses (33:4,5). Since Moshe is mentioned here in the third person, the question arises whether he is speaking of himself, or is the assembly intoning the following: “Moses charged us with Torah, an inheritance for the assembly of Jacob. And there was a king in Jeshurun” [remember last Parasha’s Yeshurun, “the one who has been straightened”, in contradistinction to Ya’acov who is “winding” or “crooked”?]; when the heads of the people were gathered, the tribes of Israel together” (vs. 4, 5). For the “assembly of Jacob” we have here the unusual form of “kehila” (of the root k.h.l), rather than the frequent “kahal” or “eda”. “Kehila” appears to refer to a more organized form of the congregation, or society, rather than to a random assembly of the multitudes. Thus, when the People of Yisrael is in unison they become the redeemed community ruled over by YHVH while inheriting the Torah, rendering them no longer a wayward Ya’acov, but Yeshurun, whose paths have been made straight. 


At this point, Moshe confers on each tribe its respective prophetic blessing.


The first three tribes to receive their blessings are the firstborn Reuven, who in spite of having lost the birthright (ref. 1st Chronicles 5:1, 2), symbolizes here this significant position; Secondly, Yehuda (Judah), who was to receive the kingly position, while Levi is third to be given his blessing which is the office of the priesthood. There is no mistake - this is the order of YHVH’s Kingdom: the birthright comes first, ideally consisting of kingship and priesthood. However, in the un-regenerated state the birthright had to be divided up into its two offices (namely the ‘kingly’ and the ‘priestly’), which were only brought together in Yeshua (ref. Zech. 6:13). But when YHVH’s kingdom will fully manifest upon the earth, His people will form the long-awaited-for nation of priests (after the order of Malchitzedek) and kings (e.g. 1st Peter 2:9).*


Since Yehuda, according to the blessing (v. 7), was destined to be “brought to his people”, it is apparent that he will be separated from them at some point. This prediction became fact when the ten northern tribes seceded from the united kingdom ruled by Yehuda and were later exiled and dispersed, and until now have not been reunited with their estranged southern brethren, albeit the many prophecies predicting their eventual union. 


Of Levi it says (in verse 9): “who said to his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; and he has not acknowledged his brothers, nor knew his own son, for they have observed Your word and kept Your covenant”. The word for “acknowledge” is “hekir”, also meaning to “recognize” and stems from the root (noon, kaf/chaf, resh) used in “nochri” - “stranger” - and in the verb “hitnaker” - to be “estranged”. This term describes Yoseph’s initial treatment of his brothers in B’resheet (Genesis) 42:7. The Levites, who were also to assume the position of judges, could not be “partial” to anyone, including their own family members, or as the Hebrew has it, they could not (in their official capacity) “recognize or acknowledge" their relatives, but rather, had to become “estranged” from them. “Estrangement” and “recognition”, although appearing to be contradictory, are in fact not that far apart; at times it takes the former in order to achieve the latter (as was the case with Yoseph and his brothers).


The description enumerating Yoseph’s blessing (vs. 13 – 17) resembles a trail going up and down hills, descending into valleys and underground resources and climbing mountain tops; a journey, which while topographical and geographical, also crosses the boundaries of Time and is ‘intercepted’ by the human element as well as by heavenly bodies, such as the sun and the moon (recalling to mind Yoseph’s dreams). “Meged” - translated “precious - is the leitmotif of this passage, as it is repeated five times within few verses. Its expanded meaning is “excellence, glory, and gifts of choice” in reference to nature.[4]  In verse 15, Yoseph’s hills and mountains are termed “ancient” (“kedem” - “first, initial, primary” and also connected to that which is “ahead”), and “everlasting” (the word being “olam”, which also means “futurity”). Both the heavens and the abyss are destined to contribute toward Yoseph’s well being. That which the ground will produce for him on a monthly basis will grow so fast, that it will seem as though “expelled” (“the best yield” is “geresh,”, to “expel, force out”) by the earth (v. 14). On the one hand “he shall push out the peoples” (v. 17), but his leadership position is not likened to the prowess of a king or a military leader, nor even to that of a typical priest, but rather to that of the Nazarite (ref. end of v. 16 – “n’zir ehcav”, literally the “nazarite among his brothers” and translated as “the one who was separated from his brothers”, or “a prince among his brothers”). The title used here originates in “nezer”, a “crown or a miter”, which is made up of the nazarite’s uncut hair (as we saw in Parashat Nasso, in Num. 6). The “nazarite” - or “nazir”- is one who takes upon himself an oath to abstain from worldly pleasures.


Z’vulun (Zebulun) is told to rejoice in his “going out” (v. 18). In Parashat Ki Tetze (in Deut. 21:10) we already noted that “going out” many a time connotes going out to war (ref. 1st Ch. 12:33), and in Z’vulun’s case also going out to sea (ref. Ya’acov’s blessings to his sons, in Gen. 49:13). Yisas’char’s (Issachar) tent dwelling is an antidote to Z’vulun’s “going out”, and refers to homestead and attachment to the land (the tent-dwelling here does not seem to suggest a nomadic lifestyle; cf. Jacob’s blessings, Gen. 49:14), and perhaps also to the wisdom and discernment characteristic of this people (ref. 1st Ch. 12:32). The mutual cooperation between these two neighboring tribes is captured by verse 19. Yisas’char “shall call the peoples to the mountain. There they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness”, while Z’vulun will make provisions of “the bounty of the seas and treasures hidden in the sand”. The "mountain", in this case, is most likely the "Mountain of YHVH".


Naphtali is “satisfied with favor”, which is “s’vah ratzon” (v. 23), while Asher, who is “favorable in the eyes of his brothers”, is “r’tzooy echav” (v. 24). Both these words emanate from the root which is to “please, accept, favor”.


In verse 15 we read about the “ancient – kedem – mountains”, while in verse 27 Elohim, who is described as a “dwelling place” (“me’ona”), is also called “Elohey kedem”, translated here as “eternal”, Thus, He who always was from the very beginning, is also the One who will ever be and it is He who will enable Yisrael to “dwell alone securely” (v. 28, literal translation; cf Bil’am’s blessing, Num. 23:9), as He Himself is her dwelling place while “underneath [her] are [His] everlasting arms” (v. 27).


In coming to the end of the tribal blessings, it must be noted that Shim'on is conspicuously missing. Yehuda's blessing, however, opens up with "Hear, O YHVH, the voice of Yehuda…" Because Shim'on's name is rooted in the verb "to hear" (sh'ma), it is thought that the blessing of this tribe, which was destined to amalgamate into Yehuda, is hinted at here.


Moshe’s last words constitute an exhilarating exclamation: “Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, O people saved by YHVH, the shield of your help, and who is the sword of your excellence! And your enemies shall be found liars to you, and you shall tread on their high places” (33:29). It is most likely that Moshe himself did not compose the last eight verses of D’varim (chapter 34, or even the entire chapter, consisting of 12 verses). About his body, it is said, “He buried him…” (34:6), inferring the direct involvement of the Holy One of Yisrael in this task. And although in Sh’mot (Exodus) 33:20 YHVH said to Moshe: “You cannot see My face. For there no man can see Me and live”, here we read, in verse 10: “And never since has a prophet like Moses arisen in Israel, whom YHVH knew face to face”. These words do point to Moshe’s intimate knowledge of the Almighty, Who Himself is said to have “known” Moshe (cf. 1st Cor. 13:12). “Panim el panim” (“face to face”) implies exposure before someone, as in Hebrew “face” is not only an external image, with the root p.n.h (which we have noted several times in the past) meaning “to turn”.  Thus “face” is that which “turns” to look at and respond to another. And while “panim” is the “exterior” or the “surface”, “p’nim” means “inner” (ref. Ezekiel 40:19,23 etc.). Thus “panim” - face – also reflects that which is on the inside. In 2nd Corinthians 3:18 this principle is applied in a powerful way to each individual believer: “We all, with our face having been unveiled, having beheld [‘turned toward’] the glory of YHVH as in a mirror, are being changed [on the inside] into the same image from glory to glory, even as by YHVH, the Spirit” (italics added).



[1] The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown Hendrickson. Publishers, Peabody, Mass. 1979

[2] Da’at Mikra, A’ahron Mirski, Rav Cook Inst., Jerusalem, 2001

[3] The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon

[4] Ibid. 

* More information on the “firstborn factor” may be obtained from our book, Firstborn Factor in the Plan of Redemption, which can also be read online