Behar-Bechukosai 5778

Ensuring the redemption[1]

וזכרתי את-בריתי יעקוב ואף את-בריתי יצחק ואף את-בריתי אברהם אזכר והארץ אזכר
I will remember my covenant with Yaakov; as well, my covenant with Yitzchak, and I’ll remember my covenant with Avraham, and I’ll remember the land[2]

Parshas Bechukosai describes all the devastating things that will happen when the Jews will be exiled from their land. After all these events are described, Hashem assures us that we will not be forgotten. We are assured[3] that we will evade total annihilation, despite our enemies’ plans otherwise. Hashem tells us that He will recall the covenant He made with our forefathers: to be an eternal nation[4], living peacefully in our homeland[5]. When the Torah writes the name of Yaakov, it is written as יעקוב, with an extra “ו”. Rashi points out[6] that this happens five times[7] in Tanach. This is to correspond to the five times[8] that Eliyahu the prophet’s name is written אליה, missing the final “ו”. This is to teach us[9] that Yaakov, so-to-speak, “took” a letter from Eliyahu’s name as collateral, to ensure that Eliyahu will come and announce to Yaakov’s children the imminence of their final redemption[10].  If this is the lesson of the extra letter in Yaakov’s name, then why did it need to be demonstrated five times[11]? If this had happened just once, it would have been sufficient.

One suggestion offered[12] is that it’s to signify that it was as if Eliyahu took an oath on the five books of the Torah[13] that he will definitely announce the final redemption of the Jews from exile. The problem with this approach is that once an oath was made, why was there a need for Yaakov to take collateral from Eliyahu? Conversely, if Yaakov took collateral from Eliyahu, why was there a need for an oath? Therefore, another approach is necessary[14]. Whenever a person takes collateral from another, the custom is to confirm the arrangement with a handshake[15]. The five times Yaakov took a letter from Eliyahu’s name corresponds to the five fingers in a person’s hand[16]. As well, the numerical value of “ו” is six, and five of them make thirty, corresponding to the thirty parts in the human hand[17]. This is to show that it was as if they “shook on it”, so that there would be no doubt that Eliyahu would announce the final redemption.

Another answer[18] takes a more numerological approach. The names of the three forefathers contain thirteen letters[19], as well as the four foremothers[20], resulting in the number twenty-six[21]. This is true using the name Yaakov/יעקב. Twenty-six carries great significance, as it’s the numerical value of Hashem’s name. However, if we use Yaakov’s other name Yisrael/ישראל, the total becomes twenty-seven. This corresponds to the twenty-seven letters[22] in the alphabet used by the Torah. What does all of this have to do with our verse?

The name יעקב represents the masses; those who are not necessarily learned in Torah, but who are G-d-fearing and spread the message of Hashem’s Unity. This is why the names of the forefathers and foremothers, using the name יעקב, correspond to the name of Hashem. On the other hand, the name ישראל represents the Torah scholars[23]. This is evident from a comment of Rashi elsewhere[24], where he explains a verse which redundantly says “ישראל” five times. He says that it’s to correspond to the five books of the Torah.  Therefore, the combination of the forefathers’ and foremothers’ names, using the name ישראל, corresponds to the twenty-seven letters in the Torah.

However, in the future, Eliyahu will come and will “return the hearts of the fathers due to the sons, and the hearts of the sons due to their fathers”[25]. Meaning, everyone will have perfect knowledge of Hashem and His laws[26]; from the smallest of minds to the greatest of scholars. Therefore, the masses, who are represented by the name יעקב, will need another letter attached to their name. This will allow the names of the foremothers and forefathers to combine to twenty-seven letters, representing the Torah. Consequently, the letter “ו” was added to Yaakov’s name, making it יעקוב. This was done five times, to represent the five books of the Torah, which they are now masters of. May this happen soon, speedily in our days.

Good Shabbos

[1] Based on Gur Aryeh and Chasam Sofer’s Toras Moshe I to Leviticus 26:42

[2] Leviticus loc. cit.

[3] ibid verse 44

[4] Genesis 17:7

[5] ibid 15:18 and 17:8

[6] to Leviticus 26:42

[7] They are: (1) here (2) Jeremiah 30:18 (3) ibid 33:20 (4) ibid 46:27 (5) ibid 51:19. I’m not sure the significance of why the rest are all in the book of Jeremiah

[8] They are: (1) II Kings 1:3 (2) ibid verse 4 (3) ibid verse 8 (4) ibid verse 12 (5) Malachi 3:23

[9] Rashi’s source is Midrash Chaseiros VeYeseiros pg. 43 and 300 (Rothheimer ed.)

[10] Eliyahu’s association with the final redemption comes from Malachi 3:23

[11] The Midrash loc. cit. itself explains that four of the times are to correspond to the four exiles (see Bereishis Rabbah 2:4), and the fifth corresponds to the final redemption

[12] Mizrachi to Leviticus loc. cit.

[13] This is similar to a comment made by Rashi to Numbers 8:19, where explains the reason the verse there says ישראל five times is to signify an oath on the five books of the Torah

[14] The following is offered by the Gur Aryeh loc. cit.

[15] See Proverbs 6:1, 3

[16] The “ו” looks like a finger. This is why it was specifically this letter which was taken. Cf. Sifsei Chachim ad. loc.

[17] Oholos 1:8

[18] Offered by the Chasam Sofer loc. cit.

[19] אברהם has 5, יצחק has 4, and יעקב has 4

[20] שרה has 3, רבקה has 4, רחל has 3, and לאה has 3

[21] Emunah VeBitachon Chapter 13, in Kisvei Ramban II pg. 390 (Mosad HaRav Kook ed.)

[22] Twenty-two regular letters and the five final letters: מצנפ”ך

[23] Since קודב”ה ואורייתא חד הוא (see the beginning of Nefesh HaChaim Sha’ar Daled Chapter 10), Torah scholars additionally represent the unity of Hashem, like the masses

[24] See note 13

[25] Malachi 3:24, with Rashi’s translation of אבות על בנים and בנים על אבותם

[26] Rashi ad. loc. See also Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14