Lech Lecha: Torah Themes

Parshas Lech Lecha

The Torah tells us that Hashem appeared to Avraham in a “mechzeh, dream.” This expression is unusual because normally prophecy is called a “mareh, vision.” What is the difference here? The Yalkut Reuveni quotes the Zohar which states that the words mareh and mechzeh are the same, but mareh is Hebrew and mechzeh is Aramaic. The angels don’t understand Aramaic. Before Avraham was circumcised, Hashem came to speak with him in a mechzeh, in Aramaic, so that the angels would not know that Hashem was sharing prophesy with an uncircumcised person, but after Avraham performed his bris, Hashem appeared to him in a normal mareh, henceforth sharing the prophecy in Hebrew. This is what is being said, but what does it mean?

Shanayim Mikrah
The seforim bring down that we recite shanayim mikra viechad targum, twice the verse and once the targum in order that the scripture, which is chessed, should overcome the targum, which is Aramaic, and din, judgment. We find that the verses of the Torah are referred to throughout the Gemara as “rachmana amar, the Merciful one states.” Hence, this is what is means that Torah and Hebrew are chessed. Why is targum din? We will come back to this.

One of the strange hints we find about shanayim mikrah is that the word שמות Shemos (as in the Book of Shemos and the opening words of Shemos – Veayleh Shemos) stands for רגום-ת אחד-ו קרא-מ נים-ש. Why is this mitzvah hinted specifically there? Shouldn’t it be hinted to in Bereishis, where obligation to perform shanayim mikra begins?

The Split
The Arizal explains that the word Targum has the same numerical value as “tardaima, slumber.” When Hashem put Adam to sleep in a slumber and split man and woman, this represents the divide between Hebrew and Targum, Aramaic. This divide represents the guf and neshamah. The Hebrew is the neshamah and the Aramaic is the guf. We must elevate the guf by using it for Torah. This is why all of Talmud Bavli and Zohar are written in Targum, Aramaic. That is the external part of Torah. When we learn it and plumb the depth, we arrive at the inner world of Torah knowledge, represented by Hebrew. Thus, the Targum is seen as din, and it needs to be surrounded by the verse twice, which softens it and elevates it.

New Language
The seforim say that when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, he stopped speaking Hebrew and began to speak Aramaic. Tosfos in Shabbos states that the angels don’t speak Aramaic because they despise the language as it is a copy of Hebrew but not accurate. The depth here is that when Torah is expressed in Targum it literally loses its translation.

The verse says, “arami oved avi, The Aramaic one (Lavan) tried to kill our father (Yaakov) and he went down to Egypt. Lavan caused Yaakov to marry Leah which lead to jealousy between the tribes, when Yosef, Rachel’s firstborn, was given favor by Yaakov. There are many interpretations of how Lavan tried to hurt Yaakov. But what is significant here is that the destructive force is called Aramaic. When Adam sinned he was unable to perfect the neshamos that were around in his time and they had to be sent down as the Jews to Egypt to be perfected. Hence, the tikkun of the Aramaic came specifically in Shemos, where the Exodus took place, and that is why Shemos hints to this fixing.

Yaakov wanted to called the wall he erected as a treaty with Lavan, “gal eid, the wall of witness” which is Hebrew. Lavan insisted on calling it “Yigar Sahadusa,” the wall of witness in Aramaic (Gemara Megillah). Yaakov demanded Hebrew, holiness, but Lavan tried to make Yaakov and his family Aramaic, mundane.

The Targum represents the everyday language people speak, it represents chol, the mundane. Whereas, the Hebrew represents kodesh, the holy. We strive to elevate the mundate to the level of holy. That is what shnayim mikrah accomplishes.

Avraham was waiting for Hashem to command him to circumcise as that is the only time that one is able to fulfill the mitvah. Once the command came, Avraham rushed to fulfill it. But in the meantime, as Avraham grew for the first 100 years of his life, he connected deeply with Hashem and they spoke in Targum. This hints to the fact that Avraham was fixing the sin of Adam and bringing the mundane to the realm of holiness. That is why he spoke with Hashem in Aramaic.

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