Who Me?

Which word connects these five sentences?

  • The world of baseball went wild in the spring of 1974 when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
  • It was at the height of the hurricane when three men and a woman, crewing the Coast Guard Sikorsky Jayhawk helicopter, took off hoping to home in on the radio distress beacon that had been deployed by the stricken cargo ship.
  • There were no signs of trouble the day that newlyweds, Mary and Allen moved into their new home.
  • Almost everyone knows that in sports, the home team enjoys an advantage but nobody knows exactly why.
  • China prices its car exports far lower than they do at home.

In each sentence, the word “home” has a slightly different meaning but with a little thought one can see how these five different applications might be connected.  But there is little point in the exercise.

However, when one word possesses several meanings in Scripture, each nuance of the word adds valuable insight to understanding the complete message of the word. For example, take the Hebrew word whose three-letter root is P-K-D.  Here are five places where it appears. The King James Bible translates each differently.

And the Lord remembered Sarah as He had said…
(Genesis 21:1)

And thou shall appoint Aaron and his sons…
(Numbers 3:10)

Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers…
(Numbers 3:15) 

…for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…
(Deuteronomy 5:9)

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath commanded me to build him a house…
(Ezra 1:2)

In each verse, the underlined word is a different translation of the same Hebrew word—P-K-D. 
פ     ק     ד

D       ←   K     ←    P

Let us seek the consolidated meaning of this word.  It is somehow an amalgam of remembering, appointing, counting, commanding, and visiting; the latter being a somewhat archaic usage meaning something similar to ‘remembering’.

When you remember someone, it is usually someone specific you recall.  When you appoint someone, again, you seldom do so randomly.  You are matching a specific person to a specific office or appointment.  When President Lincoln commanded General Ulysses S. Grant to take over the Union Army in 1864, that was because he specifically chose General Grant over General Henry Wagner Halleck and all other candidates. We don’t count things we regard as insignificant.  We count all our children before embarking on a long drive.  We count our money.  Attaching numbers to something implies that we care about that thing.   “Visiting iniquity” is again dealing with specific actions of specific individuals.

Sure, enough, ancient Jewish wisdom confirms that the word P-K-D always means something that is happening to someone very particular for very particular reasons.  It is the very opposite of the dismissive ‘what-ever’ usually tossed out in a bored monotone.  P-K-D is a passionate action word focusing all our attention on a certain person and upon what is now to transpire in that person’s life.

It fascinates me that in the Lord’s language there are words other than P-K-D that we can use for remember, appoint, count, command, and visit.  When this word is used it focuses our gaze upon a specific person like a laser beam.

These days, people in your family, business, or social circles have been reduced to green bubbles popping up in your phone messaging app.  They have become the ubiquitous ‘friends’ in another app or impersonal email correspondents.  We all used to see far more of each other in face-to-face, real-life encounters than we do today.  One danger of today’s trends is that we lose sight of one another’s uniqueness.  If every exciting, distinct person we know becomes nothing more than a text message, a Facebook friend, or an undifferentiated email recipient, then the vast kaleidoscope of human individuality in our lives vanishes into a bland blur looking like a column of identical soldiers marching across a stage.

This is very bad news for our social, romantic and business lives but there is an antidote.  The Bible with its huge cast of colorful characters helps accustom us to view each person in our orbit as a unique creation of a loving God.  Considering the enormous scope of conduct throughout Scripture helps us see the special capabilities of each person we know and that are found in nobody else.  By overcoming modern technology’s tendency to commoditize our human relationships we are able to return to an authentic form of communication for greater cooperation, collaboration, and ultimately greater creativity.

9 thoughts on “Who Me?”

  1. Hello Rabbi Daniel Lapin,
    I just ordered “Buried Treasure”. Every book I have bought from your site has been excellent. I value your comments.

    Although I am not Jewish, I am very interested in your culture and teachings. What does the Feast of Tishri mean to you? Isn’t it celebrated about this time of year?

    Looking forward to your response. Thank you & have a great day.


    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Tom–
      Thank you for writing and for your kind words about my work. On my Facebook page (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) you will find short videos about the “Tishrei festivals”.
      In the Hebrew month of Tishrei (The Biblical 7th month) you have Rosh Hashana, (this past Sep 21/22) Yom Kippur, (this past Sep 30) and Sukot (Oct 5-12).
      I’ll also discuss on the podcast https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show
      We’ll be discussing them all so stay tuned.

  2. I’m so thankful, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, for this special book, and I hope that many people will be able to get this deal! I’ve purchased several copies to give away as gifts in the past, when they were on sale for a higher price. I would purchase now, except that this Hurricane Harvey business has impacted our current budget for the purchases of additional valuable items.

    “Buried Treasure” is a gem. 😉 Sincerely, LJ

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you LJ–
      I am sorry that you have been harmed by Harvey and I pray you shall soon be raised higher than before.
      I appreciate your warm sentiments about Buried Treasure–one of my favorite books.

  3. The more I read and here your explanations of ancient Hebrew as well of those of other rabbis the more disturbed by become about the myths and fallibilities perpetrated by the early Christian church. I am an unapologetic Christian, but your explanation of the Jewish bible is both refreshing and educational.
    God bless you and Susan. While we may never meet in person Joyce and I consider you friends . Have a happy and blessed Holliday season.


    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Brian & Joyce–
      Thanks for your letter and for your friendship, both of which we cherish. My thoughts are to remain calm about events of seventeen centuries ago and focus on all the good happening today. This includes serious commitment to Bible study including ancient Jewish wisdom as evidenced by the huge demand for my work. For this I am grateful.
      Let’s hope I get invited to teach in your town and we do meet then!

  4. Thank you for these studies, Rabbi Lapin. They are very insightful and most helpful. I always look forward to reading these and listening to your podcasts.
    God Bless you and your wife.

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