Watch out for changed meanings!
lo yikare'a (Exod. 28:32) The root is Kof Resh Ayin. In Modern Hebrew the meaning of kore'a is limited to 'tear' - pulling apart by hand, without the aid of a cutting implement, and leaving irregular edges. Perhaps this meaning attached itself to the word, from the halachic requirement to 'tear' by hand at bereavement on the loss of a parent (l"a). There is another possibility. As many of the early speakers of Modern Hebrew were native Yiddish speakers, Yiddish forms an important substratum for Modern Hebrew, and the meaning of reissen, the Yiddish word for 'tear,' may have been superimposed on kore'a.
In Mishnaic Hebrew the meaning of words from the root Kof Resh Ayin is considerably wider. In the Mishna we find 'On bereavement for any relative one may kore'a by hand or one may kore'a by using an implement; [but] for father or mother one must kore'a by hand (Mo'ed Katan 22b). Here, damaging a garment either by hand (tearing) or by implement (cutting) is envisaged.
What do words structured from the root Kof Resh Ayin mean in the Bible? Interpreting ancient texts according to the later meaning of the words will lead to mistakes. What is the meaning of: lo yikare'a (Exod. 28:32)?
Rashi does not explain the word yikare'a here, but elsewhere, for vekara (Jer. 22:14) (a word from the same root) he gives two possibilities in that context: 1) 'broaden,' 2) 'open.' He gives two more examples (Jer. 4:30; Isa. 63:19).
Rashbam explains that lo yikare'a means 'One should not open a hole for the neck downwards as is done on our clothes (by cutting the woven cloth), but above while weaving, they should leave a hole for the neck.'
Similarly Chizekuni writes 'the expression means "opening" as in vekara (Jer. 22:14), that is to say the neck should not be opened at the time the garment is being fitted, rather they should leave the opening for the neck while weaving.'
Sforno writes 'It should not have a neck opening downwards at the front, but it should be round. The expression yikare'a is used for anything opened downwards, but elsewhere like vekara (Jer. 22:14) it refers to the downward and narrow opening of windows.'
We can see that all these commentators (who lived before the modern language developed) saw lo yikare'a as referring to the manner or shape in which the neck was made. The modern meaning of 'tear by hand' was not on their agenda. Another example in the Bible is: yikre'eha beta'ar hasofer (Jer. 36:23) (yikre'eha 'with the scribe's knife'); here yikre'eha means 'cut up'. It seems that the Biblical meaning of kore'a is: open up anything either by hand or by implement.
The Ponevezher Rav, Harav Yosef Kahaneman a"h used to say that people think of the Rambam as a Posek ('decisor') but should also think of him as a Mefaresh ('exegete'). In Sefer Hamitzvot (Negative commandments: 88) we find 'We are prohibited to kero'a the opening of the coat of the High Priest but it should be woven … and this is what the verse means … and he who cuts it with scissors and the like is flogged! (having transgressed a negative commandment) Here in Sefer Hamitzvot 'damaging manner' is not mentioned.
However in Yad Hachazakah Rambam writes 'He who is kore'a the neck of the coat is flogged, as it says lo yikare'a and the same applies to all the priestly garments that if one is kore'a them in a damaging manner one is flogged (Kelei haMikdash 9:3). Here the Mishnaic meaning is clear, though it could be argued that the phrase 'in a damaging manner' refers only to the other priestly garments.
However Ralbag (a follower of the Rambam) understood the words in the Yad Hachazakah to be inclusive. He writes 'We are warned against kore'a, and anyone who is kore'a it in a damaging manner is flogged for he disgraces the honor of Heaven, may He be exalted. The same applies to the other priestly garments.'
To sum up: In the Bible words of the root Kof Resh Ayin connote opening something; in the Mishna such words are limited to mean opening in a damaging manner; while in Modern Hebrew they are further limited to mean tearing (by hand).
The Rabbis have Prophetic Licence
umova'av (Ezek. 43:11) ('its entries') R' Menachem ben Shim'on (late 12th cent.; studied under Radak's father R' Yosef Kimche; published in Mikra'ot Gedolot HaKeter from manuscripts, ed. M. Cohen, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, 2000) writes 'it should have been mevo'av with a Sheva under the Mem and a Cholam on the Bet, as it belongs to the 'hidden Ayin' conjugation. However it is as is for sound effect, making it parallel to the reading of [the previous word] motza'av ('its exits').' The verse as explained justifies holacha vehova'a as occasionally used in Rabbinic Hebrew (e.g. Simla Chadasha 24:3) for the act of moving the knife to and fro during slaughter.
I will be
pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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