Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yad Vashem

...ונתתי להם בביתי ובחומתי יד ושם...
Thus says Hashem to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what I desire, and uphold by covenant: I shall give them, in my house and my walls, a hand and a name, better than sons and daughters. (Yeshayahu 56:5)

I don't know if this post is more pshat or vort, but it sounds nice, so I'll say it.

The above verse is repetitive and hard to understand. What is the point of mentioning "wall" after mentioning "house"? And what is the relevance of a "hand" here?

Elsewhere, as in the Gemara, the word "yad" refers to a "handle", an implement by which an object is grasped. Perhaps that is the same meaning here: a "yad" is some sort of useful object. This is in contrast to a "shem", which conveys a message rather than being being used as a tool toward some objective. Thus, this phrase first talks about something practical ("yad"), and then something symbolic ("shem").

If so, then this phrase is parallel to the previous phrase: "my house and my walls". A useful object ("yad") is contained in your house, while a symbol ("shem") is posted on the walls of your house for everyone to see. The verse promises that the person who is loyal to God will receive both.

Similarly, when we want to memorialize someone, there are two things we must do. We must make a "shem" - by speaking of them and keeping their memory alive. And we must make a "yad" - by carrying out their intended mission in the world.

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