• yehoshua steinberg

Ki Tisa: Year of the Monkey? ~ Yehoshua Steinberg

Ki Tisa

You shall make the Festival of Weeks with the first offering of the wheat harvest; and the Festival of the Harvest shall be at the changing (תְּקוּפַת) of the year (Exodus 34:22).

This verse is cited in Sifrei HaShorashim of Rabbeinu Yonah ben Ganach (hereafter, Ribag) and Radak under the root “קוף”. Both authors also cite the word “קוֹף” (monkey) as a derivative of this root. The word “תְּקוּפָה” denotes encircling and encompassing (היקף) – this being the annual cycle in the case of our verse. Radak explains the root’s connection to a “קוֹף” on the basis of its nature to grab and encompass objects in its hands. Ribag explains that in the expression “תְּקוּפַת הַשָׁנָה”, the opening letter תְּ is not part of the root, as we find similarly in the verse, It happened at the turn (לִתְּשׁוּבַת) of the year (II Samuel 11:1), with the word תְּשׁוּבַת comprised of an added letter תְּ that is not part of the root “שׁוב”. By contrast, both authors (as well as Machberes Menachem) listed the word “תּוֹקֶף” — which implies strength (חוֹזֶק) and forceful grabbing (לְהַחֲזִיק) [see Job 14:20, and Metz. Tzion, ad loc., who links it to Ecclesiastes 4:12] — under a separate root, “תקף”. According to Ribag, the meaning of תֹּקֶף in the Talmudic vernacular is also to grab forcefully, as we find in Bava Metzia 3a: “So that everyone will not grab (תּוֹקֵף) the garment of his fellow.” We see, then, that with respect to the word תֹּקֶף, they all agree the letter תּ is part of the root, even though תֹּקֶף appears related in meaning to the other two words תְּקוּפָה and קוֹף, in that they all imply the concept of היקף (encircling, encompassing).

The word היקף itself [which appears in Job 1:5; Psalms 17:9, 22:17; Isaiah 15:8; Joshua 6:3] is cited by Ribag and Radak under a different root, “יקף”. These authors also listed a separate entry, “נקף”, under which they include words from verses meaning primarily cutting off, breaking, and bruising [see Isaiah 3:24, 17:6, 29:1; Job 19:26]. However, in a number of verses containing קף-based words that mean encircling, they both indicate uncertainty as to whether to link it to the root “יקף” or “נקף”. Menachem, following his usual thesis, combines both the verses meaning encircling and the verses meaning cutting off/destruction under a single root, “קף”, although dividing them into three sub-sections, with only a single verse cited under the third section, that of the (primate) קוֹף [I Kings 10:22]. Radak, under the entry “קוף” and the sub-section concerning encircling and encompassing, adds that the roots “יקף” and “קוף” are two roots with a similar meaning, namely, the matter of encircling.

The Missing Link

I would like to propose that all of these matters —both those dealing with encircling and those dealing with bruises and cutting off— are connected to the matter of encircling and encompassing. My suggestion is based on the fact that many words in לשון הקודש have dual —or even opposite (דָבָר וְהִיפּוּכוֹ)— meanings. A well-known example of דָבָר וְהִיפּוּכוֹ is the word “קדש”, which means separation from immorality and holiness on the one hand, and immorality itself on the other hand. Likewise in our case, the notion of surrounding has both a positive and negative aspect to it. For example, a belt is created for the purpose of fastening, but fastening something excessively is liable to cause bruises and wounds (or even worse, strangulation, if one fastens even a neck tie too tightly around one’s neck). We find an allusion to the dual meaning of this root in Isaiah (3:24): And in the place of the belt, abrasion (נִקְפָּה) — i.e., the site where the belt was fastened will have cuts and bruises. [In its plain meaning, this clause is but one of many examples of middah k’negged middah (measure for measure) punishments that are enumerated in the chapter, which prophesies that gaudy and immoral manner of dress and comportment will bring comparable punishments. Nevertheless, the metaphoric example that it presents here refers to actual bruises on their bodies in the locations where they wore ostentatious belts.] It should also be noted that elsewhere in Isaiah, in his comments to verse 10:34, Malbim offers a different perspective to the duality of this root, suggesting that the breaking/wounds meaning of the root “נקף”, is directly related to the surrounding of “היקף”, in that they refer to bruises or breaks/cuts that surround and encompass the object or person that they affect.

Let us attempt to explain various words containing the two-letter string “קף” based on this proposed duality of the root meaning surrounding/encompassing. As an introduction, let us point out that even the type of encircling that leads to cutting off, can have a positive aspect to it, namely, encircling to separate and disengage from the enemy. The following are seven examples to test our thesis:

  1. Kapad “קפד”:

There is an animal in Scripture called “קפוד”, which, according to Rashi (to Isaiah 14:23), means heritzon in Old French. The present-day books explaining Rashi’s Old French definitions state that this refers to the hedgehog, which is a herisson in Modern French, and is called a “קִפּוֹד” in Modern Hebrew. [Rashi also uses this definition for the same word in an altered spelling, “קופר” (Shab. 54b). He also uses this explanation for the Scriptural word “אֲנָקָה” (Leviticus 11:30), for the Talmud’s mention of “אֲנָקָה” (Chullin 122a) among those creatures whose hides are particularly tough and flesh-like, and for the Aramaic word “יילי” cited in the Talmud (BB 4a), which he notes is the Aramaic translation of “אֲנָקָה”, and which he defines as a small creature whose hair is as hard as needles. Thus, “אֲנָקָה”, “קִפֹּד” and “קופר” are all defined by Rashi as the herisson, or hedgehog.] Moreover, in his comments to the Mishnah’s use of the word “קִפֹּד” (Kilayim 8:5), Bartenura states that it is a creature whose body is covered with sharp bristles, and when a person touches it, it rolls up like an orb, hiding its arms and legs in its stomach. Thus, we have references to its folding itself into a circular and surrounding form in order to disconnect itself from the enemy. [It should be noted that we find some instances of the word “קִפֹּד” that most commentators define as a certain type of bird (see Rashi and Metz. Tzion to Zephaniah 2:14, and Rashi to Isaiah 34:11), but the more common usage is that which we have cited here.]

We also find instances in Scripture of the root “קפד” appearing in verb form, with most commentators defining it as cutting off (see Rashi and Metz. Tzion to Isaiah 38:12, and Rashi to Ezekiel 7:25). However, Malbim to Isaiah 38:12 writes that the word in that verse (קִפַּדְתִּי כָאֹרֵג חַיַּי), like the one in Ezekiel 7:25 (קְפָדָה בָּא), refers to binding and tying. Noting that Targum Yonatan always translates the verb קפד as shortened or limited (see Isaiah 50:2, 59:1; Micah 2:7) he thus sees its use in the Ezekiel verse as meaning that they will be bound and tied up by the chains mentioned in verse 23, since the effect of chains and fetters is to restrain and shorten that which they are tied around. Likewise, Rashi (to Isaiah 38:12) himself cites an alternate explanation of קפד that is not related to cutting off and resembles Malbim’s explanation of limiting, and is based on his version of Targum Yonatan, which translates the clause “קִפַּדְתִּי כָאֹרֵג חַיַּי” as “אִתְקְפָדוּ כְּנַחַל גְדוּדִין”. [Heichal Rashi notes that that our alternate version of the Targum Yonatan text states “אִתְקְפָדוּ כִּגְוַל גַרְדָאִין”, a reference to weaving.] Thus, since Yonatan sees the verse as using the simile of “a stream that flows smoothly because it is bounded on both sides by high boundaries”, Rashi infers that he interprets קִפַּדְתִּי as I restrained. Ergo, we find a form of restriction and gathering together in the interpretation of “קפד” by both Targum Yonatan and Malbim — the “restriction of the stream’s width by its boundaries” by Targum Yonatan, and the “physical restriction of the prisoners by their binding chains” by Malbim.

Malbim takes it one step further, linking this verb form of “קפד” to the creature called “קִפּוֹד”: “The animal covered with thistles is likewise called קִפּוֹד in Hebrew and Aramaic, because it folds itself up (root “קפל”) when it encounters an enemy. Similarly, the [verb] root in Hebrew is based on the folding up of the chains, or the weaving threads that are woven together, as the warp and the weft are bound together.

  1. Kapal “קפל”:

Malbim has thus led us directly to the word “קִיפּוּל” (folding). The root “קפל” with the opening letter “ק” first appears in the Mishnah (Shab. 15:3), and is derived from the Scriptural word “כפל” with the opening letter “כ”, as noted by Malbim in his comments on the verse (Isaiah 40:2), For she has received from the hand of Hashem double (כִּפְלַיִם) for all her sins. Noting the difference between כִּפְלַיִם and פִּי שְׁנַיִם, both of which mean double, he explains that פִּי שְׁנַיִם simply refers to a doubling of the total amount, whereas כִּפְלַיִם refers to a doubling via folding one half onto the other half. Thus, just as in Exodus 26:9, the word וְכָפַלְתָּ refers to the folding over of one half of the Tabernacle’s curtain onto the other half, and the word מקפלין in the Mishnah refers to folding clothes, the word כִּפְלַיִם in this Isaiah verse means that the length of years was folded in half (i.e., the doubling of the punishment’s severity allowed for the length of suffering to be halved). Hence, we see from Malbim that there are two distinct nuances of the Scriptural root “כפל”, and that the meaning of the Mishnaic term “קיפול” is an alternate form of the Scriptural usage of “כפל” in the Exodus verse, And you shall fold (וְכָפַלְתָּ) the sixth curtain. A closer look reveals that whereas both Scriptural meanings imply a doubling in quantity, in the case of folding a garment there is a dual, and indeed contradictory result: the folding of the garment doubles its thickness (height) on the one hand, but it halves its length on the other. Thus, the single act of “קיפול” causes opposite outcomes: 1) doubling; 2) cutting in half. [It should be noted that the Mishnaic “קיפול” does not refer exclusively to perfect folding (in half), as with a pressed garment, but also to folding over or rolling up in a more general sense, as in the Mishnah in Shab. (2:3), “The material wick that was folded (שקפלה) but not singed” — which means the rolling of the threads to make a wick (see also Devarim Rabbah 4:11).]

  1. Kafatz “קפץ”:

Another aspect of encircling and encompassing is that the surrounded content becomes gathered together (מקובץ) and restricted within the encircling boundaries. The root of קְבִיצָה (gathering) is “קבץ”, a root resembling “קפץ” (based on the phonetically related “lip” letters “ב-ו-מ-פ” — see Hirsch to Exodus 41:35, 49:1-2). In its Commandment concerning the mitzvah of charity, the Torah states (Deuteronomy 15:7): Nor shall you (תִקְפֹּץ) squeeze your hand [shut] against your destitute brother. Thus, the word תִקְפֹּץ is understood as if it stated תִקְבֹּץ or תִקְמֹץ, both of which denote closing and squeezing the hand. [See likewise the use of the word קָפְצָה in Job 5:16, and in the Talmud (Chullin 91b and Rashi ad loc.). See also Aruch on the Aramaic root “כווץ”, and the aforementioned commentary in Hirsch.]

  1. Kafa “קפא”:

The concept of “קִיבּוּץ” (gathering) leads us to the root “קפא” (frozen, congealed), which is essentially the concentration and squeezing together of individual units, i.e., their”קִיבּוּץ” . In the verse in Zephaniah 1:12, it is prophesied: I will deal with the men who are frozen (הַקֹפְאִים) on their lees. Ibn Ezra cites the similar Scriptural usage in Exodus 15:8, “קָפְאוּ תְהוֹמוֹת” (the deep waters congealed), regarding the waters that rose up and stood still in the splitting of the Red Sea, noting that “something that settles and is gathered together is called קִפָּאוֹן”. Radak provides a nearly identical definition, citing as an example the congealment of milk into cheese.

  1. Akaf “עקף”:

The root “עקף” (gathering) appears in the Talmud (BK 113a) in a discussion regarding a particular monetary dispute, where it states that “we deal with him in a ‘roundabout’ way בעקיפין)).” This root is similar to the encirclement and surrounding root “הקף” (based on the phonetically related “guttural” letters “א-ה-ח-ע”), albeit only a partial encirclement.

  1. Chakufa “חקופא”:

We often find examples whereby the Talmudic Sages “explained” the meaning of names mentioned in Scripture. The name חֲקוּפָא, cited in Ezra 2:51 is explained in the Midrash (Gen. Rabbah 71:3): “Four categories were mentioned regarding names of people: (1) There are those whose names are admirable and their actions are admirable; (2) there are those whose names are loathsome and their actions are loathsome; (3) there are those whose names are loathsome but whose actions are admirable; (4) and there are those whose names are admirable but whose actions are loathsome. In the category of those whose names are admirable but whose actions are loathsome are Esau (עֵשָׂו), whose name is [related to the word] עשו (i.e., עֲשׂוֹ, meaning one who ‘performs’ good deeds), but [in actuality] he did not perform [good deeds]. Yishmael (יִשְׁמָעֵאל), whose name [connotes] one who obeys [G-d] (i.e., Yishma-el, means ‘he obeys G-d’), but [in actuality] he did not obey [G-d]. In the category of those whose names are loathsome but whose actions are admirable are the [Babylonian] exiles, [for example,] the children of Bakbuk, the children of Chakupha (חֲקוּפָא), the children of Charchur etc. (Ezra 2:51), who merited to ascend [from Babylon to Israel] and build the Temple.” The commentators explain that חֲקוּפָא is loathsome because it implies a קוֹף (monkey), or הֲכָּאָה (hitting). Both explanations relate to the definition of קף provided above.

  1. Shakaf “שקף”:

There are two words with different meanings that derive from the root “שקף”: 1) gaze or view; 2) the upper part of a door frame, the lintel (מַשְׁקוֹף). In his comments to the verse, And they gazed (וַיַשְׁקִיפוּ) upon Sodom (Genesis 18:16), Rashi states that every incidence in Scripture of the term הַשְׁקָפָה is a gazing in a negative connection (as in this verse, where the gazing angels foresee Sodom’s destruction), except for its usage in the “confession of the tithes,” when we ask G-d to “gaze down (הַשְׁקִיפָה) from Your holy abode. This, he explains, is because the gifts for the poor are so powerful, that they turn G-d’s Attribute of Punishment into his Attribute of Compassion. The lintel too has a negative association as well, as Rashi (to Exodus 12:7) explains that above a door is called a מַשְׁקוֹף because the door bangs (שׁוֹקֵף) against it when it is closed. [To support his claim that the root שׁקף means to beat, Rashi cites the words in the verses, the sound of a “fluttered” (נִדָף) leaf (Leviticus 26:36), and a “bruise” (חֲבּוּרָה) for a bruise (Exodus 21:25), whose Aramaic translations in Onkelos are שָׁקִיף and מַשְׁקוֹפֵי respectively.] Thus, it would appear that the core concept in both of these meanings of שקף is damage and beating. [Others offer different links between the two meanings. See, for example, Radak’s Sefer HaShorashim on the root שקף.]

I believe that the Talmudic Sages imply a different meaning for the root “שקף” in their comments in Tosefta (Sukkah 3:4) on the verse (Numbers 21:20), and overlooking (וְנִשְׁקָפָה) the surface of the wilderness. Noting that it refers to the previous verse (18), The well that the princes have dug, that the nobles of the people excavated, through a lawgiver, with their staffs, they explain it as follows: “[The well] ‘surrounded’ the entire Israelite encampment and provided water for the entire wilderness, as it is stated, ‘וְנִשְׁקָפָה the surface of the wilderness.’ ” It thus seems that they understood the word וְנִשְׁקָפָה to mean and it surrounded, reading וְנִשְׁקָפָה as if it stated וְהִקִיפָה. They thus seem to suggest that the root “שקף” implies “an all-encompassing look,” in which one gazes upon the entire surroundings with a single look. Indeed, we also find an allusion to this in relation to Sodom, as the verse states, And [Abraham] gazed down upon Sodom and Gomorrah and the “entire” surface of the land of the plain (Genesis 19:28). Likewise, the view from the [level of the] lintel (מַשְׁקוֹף) is a more encompassing view than that which one receives by gazing through a window, or from the door below it. The lintel indeed suffers blows from the many slammings of the door; therefore, its “gazing” is linked (in a “borrowed” manner) to banging and damage. However, G-d transforms this negative property to the good, and provides goodness to “the entire expanse” of the earth precisely through the word הַשְׁקִיפָה.

Let us close with a prayer, that we shall all live lives that are “surrounded with” (מוּקָפִים) meaning, important challenges, and everlasting accomplishments. May we complete multi-year “periods” (תְּקוּפוֹת) growth and hope for additional success in the future.

A year without such aspirations may aptly be termed “The Year of the Monkey” — “circling” without purpose… grasping at straws.

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