Va’era: How Do We Give Kavod To Hashem ~ Tzvi Abrahams
How Do We Give Kavodto Hashem?
לְכַבֵּד: to clean or sweep the house
יוֹכֶבֶד: Moshe’s mother
וַיֹּאמֶר ה’אֶל מֹשֶׁה כָּבֵד לֵב פַּרְעֹה מֵאֵן לְשַׁלַּח הָעָם And Hashem said to Moshe, “The heart of Pharaoh is heavy/hard to send the people.”1
Theכָּבֵדis the heaviest organ of the body in that it holds a lot of blood. Therefore, when something weighs heavy on our minds, we say in Hebrew that it is כָּבֵד. The Talmud says that anger is seated in the liver.2When someone becomes angry, his temperature rises, causing him to overheat; he is characterized as being hot-blooded. Since anger is seated in the liver, the heat so to speak cooks the liver. The more one becomes angry, the more the liver overcooks, making it hard. See also the Midrash where the Ein Yosef explains that the כָּבֵד/liver is different from all other types of meat in that other types of meat when cooked become soft, whereas the כָּבֵדbecomes hard.3
Moshe’s command to “let my people go” did not sit well with Pharaoh; it made his blood boil. Being that he was the god of Egypt, any outside force was a threat to his supreme power. How to deal with this problem laid heavily on his heart, making it hard; in effect, Pharaoh’s heart became more like his liver, hence כָּבֵד לֵב פַּרְעֹה.
The function of the כָּבֵדis to cleanse the blood of all its toxins.
Everything that Hashem created in His world was only created for His כָּבוֹד.4
How do we give kavodto Hashem? The answer is in the word itself. Just like the job of thekavedis to clean the body, so too we give kavodto Hashem by purifying ourselves of all the tumahfrom within us.
Kavedcan also be translated as yakar/cherished, meaning that the heavier the task, the more cherished it becomes. For example, the boxer who steps into the ring and clobbers a lightweight cannot compare his feeling of victory to when he defeats a heavyweight champion. So too the complexity of life is veryקַשֶׁה/hard. Hashem designed it that way so that we would feel the great sense of satisfaction by battling life’s heavyweights — namely the yetzer hara, who at the end of it all will appear like a huge mountain.
Whether we knock out the heavyweight champion of the world or climb Mount Everest, the sense of achievement is immense and יָקָר בְּעֵינֵי ה’/cherished in the eyes of Hashem.
לְכַבֵּד: To Clean or Sweep the House
When one is מְכַבֵד הַבַּיִת/sweeping the house, one is also cleaning it.5By cleansing the house, one is showing that one really cares about it — giving כָּבוֹדto the house.
The opposite is true regarding someone who lets his house or even his appearance go. It means that he doesn’t care about the house or himself.
יוֹכֶבֶד: Moshe’s mother
It’s not just stam/happenstance that Moshe Rabeinu’s mother was called Yocheved. Yocheved was the one who gave birth to the redeemer who redeemed us from Egypt, the immoral capital of the world. Yocheved therefore initiated the cleansing process that took us out from the depths of the filthiest place on earth to the point where we reached the forty-ninth level of purity, pure enough to receive the Torah on Har Sinai.
The Midrash also shines light on the name יוֹכֶבֶד, for her face was similar to the זִיו הַכָּבוֹד/the Radiance of Glory.6
My wife, who is called יוֹכֶבֶד, has a radiant smile and just so happens to make excellent chopped liver. She is also obsessed about sweeping the house. It all makes perfect sense!
3Shemos Rabbah9:8, 13:3.
6Midrash HaGadol, Bereishis 23:1.