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Friday, March 10

פרשת זכור- Taking out the males

In the portion read for פרשת זכור we find the commandment "תִּמְחֶה אֶת-זֶכֶר עֲמָלֵק", wipe out the remembrance of עמלק. The גמרא בבא בתרא כ"א relates a rather bizarre incident where Yoav, David HaMelech's general was sent to destroy Amaleik. He returns, having wiped out all of the males. When he is confronted by David HaMelech as to why the others were allowed to live, he declares that he was taught "תִּמְחֶה אֶת-זָכָר עֲמָלֵק," wipe out the males of Amaleik. Needless to say, Yoav was not very happy when he found out he had been taught wrong.

It is indeed quite difficult to understand how the mesorah could be so skewed as to totally misunderstand and misrepresent this pasuk. I heard an interesting insight into this mistake but I have unfortunately forgotten the source. Yoav's rebbe never thought that the word was pronounced "זָכָר." However, many nouns in לְשון הַקודֶש undergo vowel changes when they are used in a possessive form, known as smichus. In fact, the previous sentence contained such an example. I believe the term לְשון הַקודֶש literally means "the language of the holy," rather than the holy language. Therefore, the word "לָשון" becomes "לְשון," indicating the possessive.

The word for smoke is "עָשָׁן" The vowelization of this word is the same as "זָכָר." However, when the Torah describes הר סיני and describes how its smoke rose like the smoke of a furnace, the term used (שמות י"ט:י"ח) is "עֶשֶׁן הַכִּבְשָׁן." Clearly, when the word "עָשָׁן" is used in the possessive, the קמצים are converted to סגולים. Yoav's rebbe read the pasuk "תִּמְחֶה אֶת-זֶכֶר עֲמָלֵק," and understood that זֶכֶר was the possessive form of זָכָר. He therefore mistakenly taught Yoav that the commandment is to wipe out only the males of עמלק.

שבת שלום
!משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

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