Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Rock!

Parshat Haazinu uses an unusual name for God. It repeatedly refers to God as "The Rock" - צור. Now we do know this term from Sefer Shmuel, Yishayahu and Tehillim. We know about צור ישראל, מעוז צור, צורי ולא עולתה בו but from a quick flip through the Concordance, this would appear to be the ONLY instance in which this word comes up as a name of God in the whole Torah!

ד) הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ כִּי כָל דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט
טו) וַיִּטֹּשׁ אֱלוֹהַּ עָשָׂהוּ וַיְנַבֵּל צוּר יְשֻׁעָתוֹ

יח) צוּר יְלָדְךָ תֶּשִׁי וַתִּשְׁכַּח אֵל מְחֹלְלֶךָ
ל') אִם לֹא כִּי צוּרָם מְכָרָם וַידֹוָד הִסְגִּירָם

לא) כִּי לֹא כְצוּרֵנוּ צוּרָם וְאֹיְבֵינוּ פְּלִילִים
לז) וְאָמַר אֵי אֱלֹהֵימוֹ צוּר חָסָיוּ בו
If you add (in passuk 13) וינקהו דבש מסלע ושמן מחלמיש צור you have it seven times - a nice leitwort!But what is it leading to?

Can anyone pitch in?


S. Leibowitz said...

Haazinu is really a poem and written as such. Not only is it formatted in the scroll as a poem - with two columns - but its vocabulary, images and choice of scenarios are all indicative of an eloquent poem.

Lets look at the imagery:

all of which are from the world of nature!

In my opinion, it is therefore only fitting and appropriate that the Torah chose an image for God directly from nature - the rock!

And why the rock?
1) Perhaps because it symbolizes God's stength - and the rock is the strongest object in nature(known to man at the time of the Torah)

2) Perhaps because a rock can lend itself to both good and bad things - depends on how man uses it. This is to tell us that God, too, is no insurance policy- he can bring us both good and great or tragedy and terrible things - and ultimately it is up to us - our behaviour which will determine whether we will enjoy life, peace and harmony or the opposites...

ADDeRabbi said...

i've always felt that the idea of 'tzur' is that it's steadfast, unchanging. a central thesis of the shira is that God, in fact, doesn't 'change' (see v5) and isn't fickle.

another textual point - the 'starting point' of ha'azinu is the 'ending point' of mizmor shir le-yom ha-shabbat. the terms 'tzur', 'yashar', and 'lo avel' appear in the opening line of the 'meat' of haazinu, and in the last line of the mizmor.
it seems that moshe's beginning premise is God's integrity, and then uses it to try and understand the unflolding of history, whereas the composer of the mizmor only arrives at that conclusion after working through the problem of the prosperity of the wicked.

ari said...

What about 'rock's in other stories?

Moshe Rabbeinu between the rock when G-d passes across (or however one would 'accurately' describe that incident)

Of course, water from a rock - where a rock is a source of life for B"Y. And striking a similar rock marks the begining of the end of Moshe's journey.

Would it be significant that Moshe, who's goal of entering Israel is denied for striking a rock, chooses the term 'rock' to describe Hashem?

The significance of a 'rock' is therefore something deeper than strength. It also seems easy to say it's 'unchanging', but the rocks in the Torah are more animated than your everyday Maryland or Modiin rock (but less so than your Midrashic rock). It seems to have ties to life and justice.

Interesting question.

Any additional ideas?

Alex Israel said...

I spoke to Rav Yoel about this one and he noted that Tzur is used exclusively in poetic Biblical literature as a refernce to God; eg. in Shirat Channa, in Sefer Tehillim etc.