A Void in the Word

דם המכבים

Memorial day in the new state of Israel is set one day before Independence Day. In this day we all mourn for the soldiers who died in wars and on duty. The symbol of this day is a flower that is very common in the mountains of Israel and blossoms in this season, and looks like drops of blood. Its Hebrew Name is Dam Hamakabim which translates to “The blood of the Maccabees”

The dead left a huge void in our hearts

One verse that is quoted every year in this day is from “The song of the Bow” that David wrote after Saul and Jonathan died in the battle against the Philistines:

“The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19)

Let’s focus on the word that is used in Hebrew for the the English word “slain” here.

The word in Hebrew is pronounced “Chalal” and its literal meaning is “void” or “hollow”.

Many examples in the bible. Here are a few:

“If anyone is found slain (chalal), lying in the field in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him (Deuteronomy 21:1)

For by fire and by His sword
The Lord will judge all flesh;
And the slain (chalal) of the Lord shall be many. (Isaiah 66:16)

“Yes, you shall be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised,
And lie with those slain (chalal) by the sword (Ezekiel 32:28)

Whenever the word “chalal” appears in the Bible it refers to a person that was killed or died unexpectedly. Instead of using the word “meth” – “dead”, in those cases the Bible use the word “chalal” – “void”.

When someone was slain or killed, a void is left in the heart of the people who knew him and loved him.

In memorial day we all remember the people who fell protecting our country and left a huge void in our hearts.

Play the Flute

But Hebrew is a special language. Every word has a root, and you can use the same root to build other words.

So if you take the root of “chalal” and make a verb out of it – you get “chilel

Chilel” has two distinct meaning. The first is: “playing the flute”

A flute is a hollow instrument, and the word “chalal” means also hollow.

So a flute in Hebrew is “chalil” and “to play the flute” is “lechalel

The harp and the strings,
The tambourine and flute (chalil),
And wine are in their feasts; (Isaiah 5:12)

Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 All the people went up after him, and the people were playing (mecholelim) on flutes (chalil) and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth shook at their noise. (1 Kings 1:39-40)

And from the word “chilel” – play the flute, rose the word “Machol” which means “dance for the sound of instruments”:

Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances (machol) of those who rejoice. (Jeremiah 31:4)

Profane God’s word

But now, there is a surprise: The word “chilel” which means “play the flute” is also used for a completely different meaning.

Many times in the Bible this word is used for the meaning of “profane” or “defile”

Here are some examples with different derivatives of the word “chilel”

And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane (techalel) the name of your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:21)

They shall not profane (yechalelu) the holy offerings of the children of Israel, which they offer to the Lord (Leviticus 22:15)

because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned (chilelu) My Sabbaths (Ezekiel 20:16)

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
Unstable as water, you shall not excel,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it (chilalta) (Genesis 49:3-4)

Can we understand how the root “chalal” which means “void” and “hollow” turned into a word that means “profane” and “defile”?

Maybe, it is because, when we profane or defile God’s word, we replace it in hour hearts with void?

But He was profaned for our transgressions

Another example of the use of the word “chilel” with the meaning of profane, but this time in a passive form can be found in Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, Chapter 53.

The word is “mechulal” which is the passive form of “cholel” and means: being profaned or being defiled.

Note that in most English translation, the word is translated to “wounded” or “pierced”but this is not the original Hebrew meaning:

But He was wounded (profaned – “mechulal”) for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

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