Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ha'Arafel, A Word Like Fire

ד' באדר תשס"ז

Earlier this afternoon, I recorded this morning's unusual and extremely thick fog (arafel ערפל) as an additional piece of data significant to last night's Moses Spell. Further investigating the fog's significance, I find that Moses approached a thick fog (אל-הערפל) "where G-d was" in Shemot 20:18, parashat Yitro:

The people stood from afar and Moses approached the thick fog where G-d was.

Dr. Meshullam Klarberg (Morsels Of Hebrew Grammar) writes regarding arafel as a 4-letter root:

R' A. ibn Ezra comments 'a four-lettered root'. R' S. R. Hirsch points out that there are a number of roots which have this form. That is to say, a recognizable three-letter root with Lamed added at the end. His examples are giv'ol related to Gimmel, Bet, Ayin; Kuf, Bet, Ayin; Kuf, Vav, Heh; Gimmel, Vav, Ayin; Gimmel, Vav, Heh; Gimmel, Bet, Alef - all of which connote concentration of matter; barzel (close to Bet, Resh, Zayin; Bet, Resh, Dalet); karsol (Kuf, Resh, Samech - connoting bending); and karmel (close to Chaf, Resh, Mem) (Hirsch Commentary, Exod. 9:31; Levit. 2:14). From his discussion of these words, it appears that R' Hirsch regards the Lamed as indicating a strengthening of an aspect of the three-letter root. Similarly, in our case, Ayin, Resh, Peh connotes lowering and dripping, e.g. ya'arof kamatar (Deut. 32:2) ('drip like rain'). It seems that R' Hirsch sees arafel as being a strong form of moisture.

So what does this mean? Given the spell's connection to Moses and to the 6th night hour, it's clear that what is being "manifestly strengthened" (חזק חזק ונתחזק) is all that the letter vav and the spell represent. The 3-letter root ערפ can mean "to break into pieces" [1] - like pieces of data, for example. Another example of "breaking into pieces"can be found in Yirmeyahu 23:29 -

Is not My Word like fire? says G-d, and like a hammer that breaks rock into pieces?

R' Yitzchak Ginsburgh (The Hebrew Letters) writes regarding this pasuk:

The "rock" of Torah itself, when broken into sufficient pieces - in the merit of those devoted to the study of Torah with a "broken" heart (the only perfect vessel to perceive the Divine) - repairs and elevates the broken pieces of Tohu, the primordial world of chaos (resulting in physical reality as we know it).


[1] Etymological Dictionary Of Biblical Hebrew, R' Matityahu Clark (p. 193)

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