Beit Midrash

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“Zichron Teruah” – On Judgment and Mercy

he term “zichron teruah” in describing Rosh Hashana among the holidays in our parasha, is a special term, which very likely refers to shofar blowing. But zichron, meaning remembrance, does not, at first glance, have a clear meaning.

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Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Iyar 15 5781
The term "zichron teruah (Vayikra 23:24)," in describing Rosh Hashana among the holidays in our parasha, is a special term, which very likely refers to shofar blowing. But zichron, meaning remembrance, does not, at first glance, have a clear meaning.

A famous interpretation of this pasuk deals with the fact that elsewhere it is called a "day of teruah." The gemara (Rosh Hashana 29b) says that when Rosh Hashana falls during the week, it is a day of blowing the shofar, and when it falls on Shabbat, it is a day of only remembering the blowing. This is difficult on the level of p’shat (simple/literal reading of the pasuk) because the fact that we do not blow shofar on Shabbat is a Rabbinic institution, lest someone carry the shofar in a public domain while preparing to fulfill the mitzva. If it is Rabbinic, then the pasuk cannot be talking about it!

Therefore, Rashi takes another approach. Zichron refers to the p’sukim of Zichronot, which mention the word zikaron in the context of Hashem’s relationship with mankind, and the p’sukim of Shofarot, dealing with the shofar and Hashem. This includes remembering akeidet Yitzchak, in which Avraham offered a ram as a sacrifice in place of Yitzchak. The Ramban has two objections to Rashi’s approach. 1. Why doesn’t Rashi mention the p’sukim of Malchuyot (about Hashem’s kingdom) as remembrances? Also, reciting the p’sukim of Zichronot and Shofarot is also only Rabbinic, which again makes it inappropriate for the p’shat of "zichron teruah."

The Rashbam has a cryptic explanation along the lines of p’shat: "By means of the teruah (blowing), you will be remembered before Hashem," as the pasuk says in regard to the blowing of the trumpet (see Bamidbar 10:10). This raises another question: Does Hashem need to be reminded?

The Ramban suggests that the idea behind teruah on Rosh Hashana is connected to the fact that we are a nation who "knows [how to use] teruah" (see Tehillim 89:16). At the time of divine judgment and before Yom Kippur we need a teruah of war (see Yirmiyahu 4:19), as Hashem is a "man of war" (see Shemot 15:3). The Ramban adds that we have a zichron by means of the teruah.

We will now explain a hidden meaning of the Ramban and Rashbam. Rosh Hashana is called a day of zikaron, which means a day of judgment, as the root zachor in "hifil" (mazkir) means judgment. Zachar, meaning masculine, is from the same root, and it is often representative of the attribute of din (strict law). For this reason, brit mila is done specifically for men (the parallel action for women, which some cultures practice, is a cruel act), and it obligates fathers. Brit mila is very connected to the attribute of din, which is why Torah section on the mitzva (Bereishit 17:3-14) uses only the Name, Elokim.

In contrast, women, who have a rechem (uterus), which men do not, are connected to the attribute of rachamim (mercy). Teruah, a word in the feminine form, arouses Hashem’s attribute of mercy, and this feminine attribute is behind our liberations ("V’hi she’amada la’avoteinu…"). This is also behind Chazal’s statement that Bnei Yisrael were liberated from Egypt in the merit of righteous women.

Zichron teruah comes to find balance between these two attributes, to teach us that the depth behind Hashem’s judgment is in its connection to rachamim.
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