During the procedure of Yaakov Avinu’s levaya, the Shevatim came across the Jordan to a place called Goren Haatad, and there was given a great eulogy. Yosef ordained a seven day morning period for his father (Bereishis 50,10). Rashi writes that Goren Haatad literally means a threshing floor of thorns. However, the gemmarah in Sotah 13 brings a deeper interpretation concerning the derivative of this name. Both the kings of Cannaan and the princes of Yishmael massed together to prevent the burial.  When they saw Yosef’s crown hanging on Yaakov’s coffin they had a change of heart and relented. They then hung their own crowns on the coffin in tribute to Yaakov. With a total of thirty six crowns hanging from it, the coffin resembled a field surrounded by thorns and the area was therefore named for that event.

To understand the deep significance of this event we must first deal with another Chazal. Parshas Vayechi is unique in that it does not have the nine letter space that always separates oneparsha from the other. Rashi therefore explains this parsha as a “setumah” closed, a condition that comes to teach us about Bnei Yisrael’s spiritual exile that had begun after Yaakov’s death. His death caused that the eyes and hearts of his children became closed from the impending bondage. What does this setumah really mean?

After Adam Harishon ate from the Aitz Hadaashe was punished with (Bereishis 3,13) וקץ ודרדר תצמיח לך  the ground is cursed because of you and thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you. Aside for the curse actualizing in the physical sense, the curse included a spiritual dimension which changed the course of humanity and sent it on an entirely different mission from what is had before.

The Bnei Yissaschar explains that the Torah writes two similar words both with an enlarged letter. One word is found in the passuk לא תשתחוה אל אל אחר (Shmos 34,14) Do not bow down to a foreign deity. Here we find an enlarged letter ר of the word acheir. The second instance is in the passuk of שמע ישראל ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד  (Devarim 6,4) where the Torah enlarged the letter ד of the word echad. The reason why the Torah enlarged specifically these two letters is because due to their similarity in form, one might accidentally mix them up coming to an erroneous interpretation of the passuk’s interpretation for example Do not bow down to אל אחד  or ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחר. In order to avoid such misinterpretations, the Torah went out of its way and enlarged these letters in order to avoid such a blasphemy.

The Bnei Yissaschar continues and writes that if we examine these two similar letters closely we will notice that the distinction between the two is found in the upper right corners. The letter ד is rigid and has an edge called a קוץ  literally translating as a thorn. In contrast the letter ר is smooth and rounded and is missing the thorn. This קוץ difference between the two letters can be discerned even in its fascinating gematriah. The letter ר equals 200 and the ד equals 4. The difference between the two is 196 the same gematriah as קוץ.

So now we have shown that both the physical and the numerical difference between these two letters is קוץ. Now let us apply this to the interpretation of the spiritual curse to Adam of קוץ ודרדר. Prior to Adam’s eating the Aitz Hadaas,he had a clarity of vision. He knew right from wrong, emes from sheker, echad from achair. After he partook from its fruit, everything became mumble jumble. He lost the recognition of the absolute will of Hashem and thereby the resolve to fulfill it. What was clear now became opaque, what was certain now became a struggle, and what was echad now became achair. For in Man’sechad perception of the world there is an absolute rigid form parallel to the letter ד with no chiseling away or compromising the absolute truth which parallels the form of the letter ר.

This is the spiritual curse of Adam קוץ ודרדר. Your new mission is to rise above the טוב ורעdynamics of Bechirah, and transform the ר into a דby placing the קוץ in place. This is what the passuk alludes to when it says קוץ ודרדר. Man’savodah is to place the קוץ  of אחד on the choices that present before you the non clarity of ד and ר. You see, all of us have areas where unfortunately we belong to the Achair banner. We are living theAitz Hadaas Tov Rah syndrome. The first two letters of our arch enemies   בלק בלעם infuse us every day with their potion of בלבל  a state of being unclear of purpose and destiny. That leaves us with the remaining letters of עמק a valley deep in the ground. Its nature of lowness, is found in the letters עקם  – curves and crookedness. Man was created yashar straight (Koheles 7,29), however by eating from the Aitz Hadaas he lost his “straight” thinking and fell into בלבול .

Now we can understand why Adam was created from the earth of the alter enabling him to have akaparah (Bereishis 2,7 Rashi) Note that the measurement of the mizbaiach was לב (32) amos by 32 amos (Middos 3,1). That spells בלבל, and sin definitely leads to it. The mizbaiach in the Bais Hamikdash which upon they brought korbonosreturned Man back to the state of clarity of straight echad thinking.

Yaakov possessed the middah of emes. Chazal tell us that he had the countenance of Adam Harishon before the chait. Adam had the Hidden Light and was able to see with it from one end of the world to the other. The Hidden Light was concealed in the Torah. Yaakov who was the pillar of Torah in the world merited to benefit from this light. The seventeen years that Yaakov was inMitzrayim is gematriah טוב. Tov symbolizes that light as it was the first thing in creation that merited this title. The passuk when referring to this light also calls it טוב as it says (Tehillim 31,20)מה רב טובך אשר צפנת ליריאך. During these seventeen years Yaakov infused Klal Yisrael with this light which facilitated Echad Thinking. The distance from the letters ד to ר is seventeen טובletters. The individual who knows very clearly to make the differentiation between the אחד ואחר is someone who has merited to the clarity of vision gleaned from the hidden טוב of light. Yaakov was such an individual.

Both the heart and the eye symbolize wisdom (the Sanhedrin are called the עיני העדה). While Yaakov was alive, his emes influenced the eyes and hearts of his children to see the absolute truth of Hashem in everything. When he was niftarthese two windows to the world were clogged and the emes became distorted and opaque. When Yaakov died Klal Yisrael lost the infusion of the  קוץ of echad.

This loss was demonstrated at Yaakov’slevayah. To merit this higher level of Echadthought, one must be a king over himself and his bodily desires. A crown is formed with the edge of surrounding thorns which correspond to theקוץ  of the uncompromising ד. The greatest eulogy given to Yaakov is that he was the true king that lived the life of קוץ  and אחד. No matter to what extent Yosef was able to conquer his yetzer harah and rule over his physical desires, the crown really belonged to Yaakov. He therefore placed his crown on Yaakov’s coffin. After seeing Yosef’s humility, all the other kings were also humbled and they placed their crowns on his coffin as well.

Altogether there were thirty six crowns. The number thirty six is prominent in esoteric themes such as thirty six tzadikim in every generation and the thirty six hours with which the Hidden Light was used by Adam Harishon before it was concealed. Therefore the thirty six crowns symbolized that the one who lives a life by the קוץ is also one who gleans from the future light calledtov belonging to the next world. In each generation there are thirty six tzadikim who constantly draw from the light of the next world in this world. In Kabbalistic terms the קוץ י the tip of the letter yud of the Name of Hashem is from where the Ohr Haganuz eminates. The gematriah of קוץ י  with  the kollel is  אור.

We might not live daily with that ohr but there are times when we can glean moments from that light. Every time we change a ר to a ד with ourbechirah, our neshamos momentarily bask in it. A thorn is quite uncomfortable and prickly to say the least. But the ohr is otherworldly, and this is the price one must pay for it to shine on him. Those who have been infused with it have no regrets at all. After the experience the only thing that they seek is more delight.

Gut Shabbos,

Rav Brazil