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LEVITICUS 23:27- AFFLICTION

“But on the tenth day of this seventh month, it is a Day of Atonement, a holy occasion for you; you shall afflict (v’ee-neetem) yourselves…” (Leviticus 23:27).

The Hebrew word for ‘afflict’ – v’ee-neetem, is a complex term.

Rabbi Matityahu Clark’s “Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew” based on the commentaries of Rabbi S.R. Hirsch offers 20 possible meanings of the root form of this word! He suggests they all relate to the concepts of responding or making dependent.

One shade of meaning that I found interesting is that it could mean to sing or lead in song. We see this in Exodus 15:21 Va’ta’an lahem Miriam – Miriam led them in a response (of song). Or, Eh’nu LaShem B’todah – call out to Hashem with (song) of thanks (Psalm 147:7).

What might the connection be between fasting and song?

Perhaps when we afflict/humble ourselves by separating from the physical, our souls – the spiritual side of who we are – is liberated and can more fully sing and express itself.

It is customary to wish each other a Tzom Kal – an easy fast. Kal also means ‘light’. Maybe the ultimate wish is that we become lighter during the fast day, less encumbered and weighted down by our physical side so that our souls can fly and sing!

By Rabbi Michael Skobac

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