By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And He Shall Be Cured
The verb root for cure is resh-peh-aleph, which are the same letters that comprise the words “pe’er”, beauty, and “epher”, ashes. Some have the custom of placing ashes on their foreheads before conducting Tikun Hatzot, and then say the verse in Isaiah 61, 3: “provide for those who mourn upon Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty – “pe’er” – instead of ashes – “epher”, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” In other words, by this practice and prayer, the hope is that through internalizing the meaning of Zion in its destruction through “epher”-ashes, thereby we will merit to benefit from its beauty – “pe’er” – in its rebuilding. Here we should also note that “pe’er” also signifies tefilin according to our Sages based on the verse “your beauty shall be upon you,” which is interpreted by our Sages to mean that Yehezkel was bidden to keep wearing his tefilin even in time of mourning, a matter which is forbidden on the first day of mourning for other mourners. This fits perfectly with our Sages’ teaching that the tefilin is a reminder to Israel that the true observance of the Torah is in the Holy Land, through the rebuilding of Zion [Sifri on the second parsha of Shema – “Hatzivi lach Zionim”]. On a simple level, this teaching can be explained, aside of the explicit proof-text in the Sifri, through the fact that the passages of tfilin involve the Exodus towards the Holy Land and our direct connection with Hashem, a matter which is especially realized in this Land of Providence.
The fact that “pe’er” and “epher” are so internally linked also implies that the verb root for cure – “refa” – built of the same letters, is also strongly linked to these terms. One of the Torah laws that illustrates how “ashes” bring about “cure” is the law of the ashes of Red Heffer, which bring purity, the “spiritual cure,” to even those defiled with the greatest impurity of “tumat met.” Indeed, Yirmiyahu links the concepts of “cure,” “return to the Holy Land,” and “purity” in the following adjacent verses (Jer. 33, 6-8): “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will purify them from all their iniquity…” Also, Zion is called the “outmost beauty the joy of all earth,” thereby linking beauty – “pe’er” , ashes – “epher,” and “refua” – cure, all together.
All this is no surprise considering the fact that the numerical value of “Mamreh,” another name for Hebron, equals “pe’er,” “epher,” and “refa”, 281. Indeed, it is through Mamreh that we are able to “ascend to the heavens” – “lehamri” – thereby transforming ashes into the “living waters of purity” (mentioned in the Red Heffer), curing our People and the world with the beauty of Israel within Zion.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #300
“Near the excavation (in Hebron), we saw a giant coffee urn standing on a shelf attached to a house. The urn was riddled with bullet holes. Esti (our tour guide) said that the Hebron Jewish community used this urn to provide hot drinks for their Shabbat guests. One Sunday, before they cleaned up after Shabbat, the urn was still outside, when an Arab terrorist down the road shot 30 times. Thank G-d, none of the bullets hit any Jews—they all struck the coffee urn—so the community calls the urn “Nes Café,” after Nescafé coffee. (“Nes” is the Hebrew word for “miracle.”)”
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