|This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah-Zalman Michoel Ben Golda Mirel-Ariela Golda Bas Amira Tova-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
THIS D’VAR TORAH IS ALSO BEING SPECIALLY WRITTEN L’ILUI NISHMAS MY UNCLE, REUVEN NACHUM BEN MOSHE A”H WHOSE YAHRSEIT WAS THIS WEEK.
**Note: This D’var Torah is a re-written, much edited, and expanded version of an old one I wrote a few years ago.
שְׁמוֹת ● Shemos
● What is the difference between the “hiddenness” of baby Moshe versus the “hiddenness” of the killed Egyptian? ●
Early on in Parshas Shemos, we have two separate incidents of individuals who are forced to hide a human body! Sorry to get gory. Just reporting what it says in the Chumash. But, in all seriousness, there happen to be two stories in the Sidrah which feature one of our heroes attempts to keep a body hidden from the Egyptian authorities.
The first incident occurs after Pharaoh decreed that all of the newborn boys in Egypt be killed.1 Sometime after that decree, Amram and Yocheved conceived and bore the child who would become Moshe Rabbeinu.2 This birth occurred after an miraculously short pregnancy which bought Yocheved a nice window of time to hide her baby in her home for a total of three months2, at which point, the expected nine months of a typical pregnancy would be complete and the Egyptians would check in to see if her baby was a boy or a girl and thereby determine the fate of the newborn.3
The second incident also featured Moshe Rabbeinu; however this time, Moshe was the one hiding the person. After growing up in the house of Pharaoh, when Moshe happened upon an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, Moshe would kill the Egyptian man and bury his dead body in the sand.4
Two Different Hidings
Indeed, both of these incidents in the Sidrah include someone hiding someone else; however, the respective Pesukim use two different terminologies to describe the act of the “hiding.” In the first incident with Yocheved hiding Moshe, the Torah says “VaTitzpineihu Sheloshah Yerachim”-“and she hid him for three months.”2 “VaTizpineihu” comes from the root word “Tzafan” [צפן].
Regarding Moshe Rabbeinu’s hiding of the dead Egyptian body, the Torah says “VaYitmineihu BaChol”-“and he hid him in the sand.”4 “VaYitmineihu” comes from the root word “Taman” [טמן].
While Targum Onkelos, on our verses, translates both words with the same Aramaic verb, [טמר] “V’Atmarei”/“V’Tamreih,” which apparently means to hide something, there is apparently some difference in meaning between the two Hebrew words. Otherwise, why would the Torah employ different root verbs for the same exact action? So, the question is why in fact there are these two different verbs for such similar actions. What is the practical difference between that which is “Tzafun” and that which is “Tamun”?
One interesting, but promising place to search for the hidden meaning of a word is in the writings of Chazal, to see exactly how and in which context they used the word.
For example, the term “Tzafun” most famously appears during the Pesach Seder in reference to the hidden piece of Matzah known colloquially as the Afikoman, which is ultimately revealed and eaten by the family. The portion of the Seder is referred to as “Tzafun.”
On the other hand, the term “Tamun” is used in application to Hilchos Nezikin (lit., Laws of Damages) in the Gemara in Bava Kama regarding the damaging force of Eish, fire, or really, any force that damages another’s property by being transported by a neutral outside force. The Gemara rules that one is exempt from paying for damages of Eish when the item in question was destroyed while it was concealed or hidden.5
The root word of Tamun appears in another context as well, namely in Hilchos Shabbos. There, the word is conjugated as “Hatmanah,” which in the context of Shabbos, refers to insulation, as there prohibition of insulating food in a heat preservative on Shabbos.6 There too, the idea is to completely cover up and conceal the food item, and there too, one of the heat preservatives that is mentioned explicitly is sand, the exact material used to hide the Egyptian body in our Sidrah.
Tamun – Entirely Covered from the World
The question is how these other contexts for the root verbs, Tzafan and Taman, might inform the two words in our context.
Apparently, the term “Tamun” is used more frequently in the context of something being hidden, so perhaps that word is a more general term used. It means to say that the object is plainly covered over so that it is out of sight, not meeting the light of day. Regarding the case of Nezikin for example, the item is plainly covered up and hidden from sight by the owner, presumably with the owner’s sole knowledge. What happens with that item is only a concern to the owner and not to anyone else (and perhaps that is part of the logic which can explain why one isn’t responsible to pay for damages of Eish committed against a hidden item). “Tamun” is defined by the inability for others to see the said object due to its being covered over.
In a similar vein, the goal of “Hatmanah” is to completely insulate the object so that its heat be entirely retained. So long as one does not entirely insulate the food item, he is not in violation of Hatmanah because Hatmanah is defined by that full insulation. The object has to be completely covered over.
Perhaps, we could suggest that it was in this manner that Moshe Rabbeinu hid the dead Egyptian body in the sand. As per the desperate situation, the body needed to be entirely covered over as it was not meant to be found by anyone.
If Tamun refers to complete concealment, how are we to understand Tzafun?
Tzafun – A Secret Treasure in Plain Sight
How about the Afikoman on Pesach? The tradition is to hide the piece of Matzah, specifically to be saved for later. While it is hidden, it does not have to be entirely insulated. Indeed, in theory, the Matzah can really just be placed aside. But, what is interesting about this Matzah is that it is ultimately meant to be sougfht after and found.
If we consider the context in which Yocheved hid Moshe, the goal could not have been to completely insulate his body. For a dead Egyptian body, that is fine, and Moshe’s case, necessary. But for a living baby, insulation is a risk of suffocation. Moshe wasn’t concealed in a full body covering, but he was kept away, stored in the house, yes, in plain sight, but out of the sight of the Egyptian authorities.
The word “Tzafun” has more of a connotation on conceptual hiddenness, like a secret. For example, Pharaoh called Yosef by the name “Tzafnas Panei’ach,”7 which is rendered by Rashi as “Explainer of Secrets.” Yes, Moshe’s body would remain unseen by the Egyptians, but more fundamentally, he was like a secret, hidden in concept.
“Tamun LiTzpunav”-“Hidden for his treasures”
This difference between the two root words, “Tzafun” and “Tamun,” is clearly noticeable when they appear in the same verse in Sefer Iyov.
There, the verse says, “Kal Choshech Tamun LiTzpunav [טָמוּן לִצְפּוּנָיו] T’achleihu Eish Lo Nupach Yeira Sarid B’Ahalo”-“All darkness is hidden for his treasures; a fire which does not need fanning will consume him; the last remnant in his tent will be destroyed.”8
The verse describes the fate of the Rasha, or the wicked individual and it poetically describes the destruction he is doomed to face. For good measure, the verse describes a fire that will not need the fanning of an outside force, and it will destroy him and that which is concealed in the comfort of his tent. Coming back to why we visited this verse in Iyov in the first place, this verse features the two words, “Tamun” and “Tzafun,” but paired up together, describing the eventual darkness that will overwhelm the wicked. The darkness is “Tamun Li’Tzpunav,” literally “hidden [טָמוּן] for his treasures [לִצְפּוּנָיו].”
Clearly here, “Tamun,” refers to the literal state of being hidden, whereas “Tzafun,” is describing the essence of the subject, that what’s being hidden is actually the unseeable treasure itself, being saved for later. “Tzafun” accordingly connotes some fate for the future.
Moshe & Matzah – Light of Redemption
In this kind of way, Moshe and the Matzah of the Afikoman actually have something unique in common. The hidden Matzah is understood by many as a symbol of Geulah, the final redemption of the B’nei Yisrael. It is yet hidden, but is being stored for later.
Perhaps this understanding of the Afikoman finds its roots in a tradition from Chazal back in Bereishis. In the very beginning, the Torah tells us about the creation of light.9 There, the Torah elaborates on how G-d saw the light, “Ki Tov”-“that it was good,” and that it therefore had to be separated from the darkness. What was the nature of this separation? The Midrash suggests that the light contained some spiritual bliss that was so incredible, Hashem reasoned that it should not be shared in this world for the wicked to benefit from so, He stored it away to be reserved for the righteous in the World to Come.10 This light is classically referred to as the Or HaGanuz, literally, the stored light.
Perhaps that light that is currently hidden from all now is the pending Geulah and is represented by the hidden Matzah on Pesach. And perhaps, it was fundamentally in this manner that Yoceheved hid Moshe Rabbeinu. Indeed, exactly like the light of Bereishis, the Pasuk in our Sidrah tells us that Yocheved saw the boy, Moshe, “Ki Tov”-“that he was good.”2 It is for this reason that Chazal teach that she saw an aura of light shining from the child which filled up the entire house.11
Perhaps, little did Yocheved know at the time, the boy she was hiding was, like the light of Bereishis, a symbol of redemption, a secret hidden in plain sight, being saved for those who are worthy in the future. Indeed, while Pharaoh continued to make the B’nei Yisrael suffer, the human redeemer and savior of the B’nei Yisrael was being raised under his nose, in the palace by his daughter who rescued him from her father’s decree. Perhaps, Yocheved did not completely appreciate at the time what she was accomplishing when she hid her child. She knew he was special, and she knew he was her son, and of course, she loved him. But, ultimately, when she hid her son, she was storing away the light of redemption. The fate of this child was that G-d would ultimately appear to him and send him back to Egypt to comfort his brethren, confront Pharaoh, and serve as His messenger for the performance of the plagues.
Once the B’nei Yisrael had endured enough suffering at the hands of Egypt, through Moshe Rabbeinu, Hashem would perform many wonders and ultimately save them. Moshe Rabbeinu was the light of the Geulah for Klal Yisrael, and as such, he was hidden, not in the sand to be merely covered and forgotten, but hidden in secrecy, as he was being saved for a later time when G-d would bring about the redemption.
In the end, it is clear that while the hidden body of the Egyptian was simply covered over, hopefully never to be seen again, the hidden baby Moshe Rabbeinu, like the light of our Geulah, was hidden away and saved for a most crucial moment to come. With the understanding of the hidden things in this light, we ought to recognize today that the dark time that the B’nei Yisrael continues to live in is only temporary. The ultimate good, although hidden, is not in a state of “Tamun” where it is merely buried in the sand, never to be seen, but is in a state of “Tzafun,” making it really a secret, hidden away in plain sight. It is attainable to the righteous and worthy. It is a treasure for the taking. In the meantime, we have to have faith in it and merely work towards it. But, ultimately, we should merit soon to see the secret light and treasure of our Geulah, revealed before our very eyes.
May we all be Zocheh to be steadfast in our faith during our Galus and ultimately reveal the hidden light of our Geulah with the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
– Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg
- Shemos 1:15-22
- See Rashi to 2:3 citing Nidah 38B
- Shemos 2:12
- Bava Kama 60A
- Shabbos 34A
- Bereishis 41:45
- Iyov 20:26
- Bereishis 1:3-4
- Rashi citing Chaggigah 12A and Bereishis Rabbah 3:6
- Rashi to 2:2 citing Shemos Rabbah 1:20 and Sotah 12A