A TZOHAR; light in and light out

The word Tzohar's two possible meanings lead to the two fundamental ideas regarding man and his surroundings.

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski ,

moshe Kempinski
moshe Kempinski
moshe Kempinski

NOAH Genesis 6:9–11:32

We read of Noach's (Noah's) righteousness as contrasted with the worlds' descent into havoc and malice.

These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God....Now the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth became full of robbery.And God saw the earth, and behold it had become corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.(Genesis 6:9-12)

Hashem then tells Noach to build an ark (TEIVA) and gives its dimensions and design. Hashem also tells him to "You shall make a window (TZOHAR) for the ark (TEIVA)” (ibid 6:16)

The word TZOHAR does not appear anywhere else in the Tanach. Its use is revelatory.

Yet to understand this we need to understand another word used in this portion, TEIVA or Ark. It is a word that is used in another dramatic situation as well.

In the Torah portion of Shemot (Exodus) we begin to see the formation of a people. It was a time of great oppression.

And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying: 'Every son that is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive” (Exodus 1:22)

The baby’s mother Yocheved was able to discern - with the prophetic eyes that G-d always affords mothers - that a great illuminating light would come forth from this young infant. His future life would impact the world and illuminate the darkness. She realized that that light was in danger of being engulfed by a “flood” of hatred and fear.

She could not hide him any longer so she placed him a wicker basket, called a TEIVA in Hebrew. (Exodus 2:3).

The TEIVA takes individuals or an individual into a new and yet unrevealed destiny, while being a place of safety and refuge from a threatening and stormy world. There are times in our own lives that we need to find such a TEIVA in order to distance ourselves from a world mired in politically correct sameness and oppressive self-righteousness.

While it is true that we were placed in this world to elevate it rather than separate from it, there are times when the separation becomes critical. Yet even in that time of separation Hashem says "You shall make a window (TZOHAR) for the ark (TEIVA)."


A window allows light to come in freely and openly. The refracting Jewel allows the light from within to spread into the outside world in a variance of color and shades.
Rashi in explaining this unique word explains the following; “Some say that it was a window, and some say that it was a precious stone, which gave them light." (BreishitRabbah 31:11)

Those two explanations can achieve differing results.

A window allows light to come in freely and openly. The refracting Jewel allows the light from within to spread into the outside world in a variance of color and shades.

The first understanding of a "window" is critical, as there is a tendency when entering into a protective, safe but exclusive location to shun and separate from the world outside. Hashem wanted Noach and all of Mankind to understand that is true that a protective shell or cocoon is necessary at times. Yet one cannot shun and deny the spiritual sparks that remain strewn throughout the world.

Therefore we read the dramatic commandment of Hashem to Noach and his family "Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons, and your sons' wives with you." (Genesis 8:16)

Yet the image of a reflecting Jewel speaks a different and complementary message.

We need to understand the necessity and sacred task of allowing our inner light to diffuse into the world. By so doing we are bidden to elevate the world with the different colors and shades that only our soul can contribute to the world (Rabbi Shaul Leiter Tzfat).

We cannot abandon the world because there is much in the world we can gather and elevate to its highest potential.

We cannot abandon the world because a world that sometimes is lost in darkness needs our individual inner light and unique perspective. .

That is why we are commanded to “Go out of the ark”

Le Refuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem. www.shorashimshop.com



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