Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Water covers the "ervah" of the sea as Torah covers the "ervah" of Israel. What does the word "ervah" mean?

The voice of a woman is ervah.  Uncovering a tefach is called ervah. Ervah can also indicate a prohibited sexual relationship. The commonality is that it is something sexually arousing. 

I am having trouble understanding the use of ervah in this quote from Shir HaShirim Rabbah. Does it simply mean that which is normally covered without any connotation of sexuality? A similar use is found in divorce. A man can divorce his wife if he finds ervas davar? That means he finds something about her which is irritating or problematic. Not necessarily related to sexuality.

What is this medrash saying?
Shir HaShirim  Rabba[1](1:19): Just as water covers the nakedness (ervah) of the sea as it says, As the waters cover the sea (Yeshaya 11:9), so the Torah covers the nakedness (ervah) of Israel, as it says, Love covers all transgressions (Mishlei 10:12).

[1] שיר השירים רבה (א:ג):  ומה מים מכסים ערותו של ים שנא' (ישעיה יא:ט) כמים לים מכסה כך תורה מכסים ערותן של ישראל שנאמר (משלי י:יב) ועל כל פשעים תכסה אהבה,

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