The Torah portion to be read tomorrow in Jewish communities throughout the world features a critical moment in the development of the Israelite/Jewish family, at which יִצְחָק (yeets-KHAHK) – Isaac – realizes he’s just been tricked into transmitting the divine blessing to his younger son יַעֲקֹב (yah-ah-KOHV) – Jacob – instead of his elder, preferred son עֵשָׂו (eh-SAHV) – Esau.
The Torah describes יצחק‘s visceral emotional response at the juncture of this profound paradigm shift: וַיֶּחֱרַד יִצְחָק חֲרָדָה גְּדֹלָה עַד מְאֹד – And Isaac shuddered a very great shudder (vah-yeh-kheh-RAHD yeets-KHAHK khah-rah-DAH gheh-doh-LAH ahd meh-OHD).
Modern psychology has associated under-processed fear, among other causes, with a phenomenon called anxiety. And part of the experience of anxiety is often shortness of breath and pronounced heartbeat – something close to shuddering or trembling. Appropriately, Modern Hebrew has labeled anxiety with that Biblical-Hebrew noun, חרדה. And anxiety attacks are הֶתְקְפֵי חֲרָדָה (het-keh-FEH-ee khah-rah-DAH), or simply the plural form, חֲרָדוֹת (khah-rah-DOHT).
The verb or gerund form of the root ח.ר.ד (kh.r.d) is used today only in literary contexts, with one exception. It is used to describe those who see themselves as shuddering or trembling before G-d, those who live the ultra-orthodox Jewish lifestyle: חֲרֵדִים (khah-reh-DEEM).
Taking חרדה deeper, we arrive at פַּחַד (PAH-khahd) – fear. And by resolving פחד, we can arrive at שַׁלְוָה (shahl-VAH) – tranquility. And שלווה just might lead to שִׂמְחָה (seem-KHAH) – joy.
שבת שלום, וסוף שבוע נעים לכולם!
Shabbat Shalom, and a pleasant weekend to all!