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To the Letter…



To the Letter…



This Shabbat we will read the Torah Portion “Yitro” in the book of Exodus.



In this portion the Torah tells us that on the sixth day of the third month (Sivan), seven weeks after the Exodus, the entire nation of Israel – 600,000 people, assembles in the Sinai Desert at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the ten commandments as part of the Torah.



Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzera explains that the word “Israel” can be read as an acronym:



יש ששים ריבוא אותיות לתורה


Yesh Shishim Ribo Otiot LaTorah


meaning – “There are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah”. 


(This is the tradition related to the total number of letters included in the five books of Torah).


Therefore, Israel did not leave Egypt until there were six hundred thousand of them, in order for each soul to be supported by one letter in the Torah.”


Hence each of the 600,000 souls from the Nation of Israel present at the giving of the Torah had a corresponding letter within the 600,000 letters included in the Torah.



Before the People of Israel received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, the Torah describes Israel as a synergetic body with the sum of its parts working in harmony.


The Torah states:

וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרְפִידִים וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי וַיַּחֲנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר

וַיִּחַן שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶגֶד הָהָר


And they traveled from Rephidim and came upon the Sinai Desert, and they camped in the desert, and it camped there, Israel, opposite the mountain. (Ex. 19:2)


The famous commentator Rashi, notices a grammatical issue in the passage.


In the first part of the passage the plural “they” is used to describe the Nation setting up their camps.


But in the second part of the passage, when Israel camps opposite the mountain, the singular “it” is used.


Rashi addresses this issue by commenting that Israel at that point in the journey was:

“as one being, with one heart.”


The Torah must to be written with each and every letter in its proper place.


(If there is even a minute discrepancy, Torah scroll ceases to be “kosher”).


Eventually these letters create a harmonious “whole”.


Similarly, each person can only reveal his full potential when individuals work together towards the greater good.


Thus the Torah teaches us that by being individually connected to a letter in it, each one of us can realize his/her unique virtues, traits and talents, and to use them toward the greater good of humanity. 







Let’s look at the word ויחן – camped 

It has the root חנ”י 

Useful words in Modern Hebrew with this root are:


חניה – KHANAYAH – Parking 

מחנה – MAKHANEH – Camp 


Listen now to a famous song written by Nathan Alterman:



ליל חניה Leil Khanayah – The night of Parking


The song was written in the period of the Independence war and describes building of a military camp in preparation for the war. It has deeper meanings and insights as only Alterman could put those together…






Below is the English translation of the song.



Night of parking, things voiced, in laughter, in cursing

In the tumult of work he gets up, here is his pitcher

As the face of a city being built

so is the face of the killing field

The camp spreads whose sentence is 

To spill man’s blood and be his defender

Night of parking, night of song, night of stretched skies

Night of hurried works, night of steaming pots

night that screens the magic of soul camaraderie

In midst of building a kingdom, sleepless night

Standing spread over the single and the battalions.

From first watch, between beach and hill-side

the view of war suddenly is projected 

as a gypsy folklore, hidden stake and rope

In it freedoms of travels and their emergency

In it the tools and laws in their nakedness.

Night of parking, night of song…

In it advocacy of time slogans, it didn’t unload 

purified poetry it will toil, god forbid

and only the widespread song, that is not valuable

and it is not jewellery, it will carry in full 

the yelling of the sharp colors on its flute.

He is talking about love ( with love he starts)

and about duty and war and burden, all and all

He does not say that in all the nuances of the 

poetry, but in loud voice

Without fear of heart and without worry from cheapening 

Night of parking, night of song…

Time of war the image of these things

was the image of wondering sung poetry 

like pulling a thread from candle wax 

they will pull the soul of a generation, also in the field sow

To remember, not only for badness, awful days.

This too will be woven in war all this together

As though the push of spring it was veiled

in the nation from night and from dawns

All this from hill and the creek bank will come to be

It rises immediately and comes back cut off in a howl

of the man who dives a man who fires a man who is fallen,

of the man who dives a man who fires a man who is fallen…




Shabbat Shalom, 


Yoel & Orly





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