Does the name "Eydah" imply something 'good' or something 'bad?'
Even though "eydah" carries a negative connotation in the story of the spies in Parshat Shlach, in the opening pasuk of Parshat Kedoshim it seems to imply something very positive.
In this week's shiur we suggest a thematic connection between the word "eydah" and the first half of Parshat Kedoshim (i.e. chapter 19).
In contrast to most parshiot in Chumash that begin with the standard header:
"And God spoke to Moshe saying, speak to Bnei Yisrael..."Parshat Kedoshim adds a short but important phrase:
"And God spoke to Moshe saying, speak to kol adat Bnei Yisrael... - to the entire congregation of Israel." (19:1-2)This special header indicates that there must be some specific reason why this parshia was given to kol adat Yisrael - i.e. to the entire eydah (congregation) of Israel. [Note that "adat" is simply the "smichut" form of "eydah."]
Rashi, quoting the Midrash in Torat Kohanim, explains that specifically this parshia was given to the 'entire congregation' because it includes most of the basic principles of the Torah ["rov gufei Torah t'luin ba"]. [See also Chizkuni (19:2) who quotes a similar Midrash Tanchuma.]
Even though Rashi explains why it was necessary for Moshe to relay these mitzvot in a special gathering, he does not explain why specifically the word "eydah" is used! In other words, the Torah could have simply said: speak to "kol Bnei Yisrael" (all of Bnei Yisrael; see Devarim 1:1), or could have used the Hebrew word "kehal instead of "eydah," which would have been a more precise way to describe a gathering.
Therefore, the Torah's choice of the word "eydah" suggests a connection between the mitzvot of Parshat Kedoshim and the word "eydah." To find that connection, we must begin with its etymology.
The Hebrew word "eydah" stems from one of two possible roots:
From the opening commandment of Parshat Kedoshim, one could suggest an interesting interpretation:
"Kedoshim tihyu - you shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy..." (19:2)By acting as a holy nation, Am Yisrael 'testifies' (to itself and to other nations) that God exists, for He is holy. [See Sforno 19:2.]
Why is this testimony necessary?
Testimony is usually needed order to prove a fact. Considering that God is transcendent, it is difficult for man to perceive His existence. Therefore, God commands "adat Bnei Yisrael" to keep special mitzvot that help create a society that 'testifies' to God's existence. One could actually combine both meanings and suggest that it is for this reason that God designated Bnei Yisrael to become a nation. [As usual, for a more complete explanation see the TSC shiurim on Sefer Breishit.]
Kedusha - For a Purpose
Even though this interpretation may not be 'simple pshat,' it blends nicely with Sefer Vayikra's theme of kedusha in the three realms of makom, zman, and adam, which we developed in our shiur on Acharei Mot.
"See, I have taught you chukim and mishpatim [compare with Vayikra 18:3-5!] for you to keep in the land that you are about to conquer. Observe them faithfully, for that will be proof of you wisdom in the eyes of the nations who upon hearing all these laws will say: Surely, that great nation is a wise people, for what great nation is there that is so close to God... or what great nation has such perfect chukim and mishpatim as the Torah that I set before you on this day..." (Devarim 4:5-8)Two Other Parshiot
For Further Iyun
1. Note in the first Rashi on "daber el kol adat Bnei Yisrael" that Rashi states: "m'lamed she'ne'emar b'hakhel." How does the parallel to Shmot 35:1 help us better understand this Rashi?
2. In Sefer Bamidbar (see 14:26-27 and its context), Bnei Yisrael sin at Chet HaMeraglim. Those sinners are referred to as an "eydah ra'ah" - a bad eydah.
Can our explanation of 'witness' still apply in this case?
3. Note also the Korach's splinter group is also called an "eydah."
Note Korach's original complaint in Bamidbar 16:3 - "ki kol ha'eydah kulam kedoshim u'vtocham Hashem..." Can you relate this complaint of Korach to this week's shiur and the Torah's use of the word "eydah?"
4. Is any other nation in Tanach referred to as an eydah? If not, would this support our interpretation? If yes, would it contradict it?