Energizing the Tired and Exhausted
In one of Isaiah’s prophecies (that happens to be read as the Haftarah for Parshat Lech Lecha), he describes
Some explain that yaef and ayef are actually synonymous and are indicative of a linguistic phenomenon known as metathesis (that is, the transposition of sounds or letters in a word). Thus, ayef and yaef are really the same word, but the first two letters switch positions (i.e. ayef is spelled AYIN-YUD-FEH and yaef is spelled YUD-AYIN-FEH). Indeed, Rabbi Yishaya of Trani (1180-1250), an important Italian Talmudist known as the Rid, compares the case of ayef/yaef to another well-known case of metathetical synonyms: kesev/keves which both mean “lamb” in the Bible.
Rabbi Shimon Schwab (1908-1995), on the other hand, takes a different approach. When discussing the morning blessing that refers to
Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer (1866-1935) explains that the word ayef denotes extreme fatigue to the point of fainting. Because of this, a borrowed meaning of the word ayef is “thirsty” (e.g., see Job 22:7 and Ps. 63:2) — as Radak notes in Sefer ha’Shorashim — because dehydration is generally what causes tired people to faint.
Rabbi Yosef of Saragossa (d. 1420), a student of Rabbi Nissim of Gerona (1320-1380), explains the difference between ayef/yaef and yagea. He understands that both mean “tired” in the same way, but connote tiredness resulting from different causes. Ayef refers to one who is tired after having repeatedly performed certain movements. In this case it is the persistence of action which makes one tired. The word yagea, in contrast, refers specifically to tiredness resulting from the speed of one’s actions. In other words, one described as ayef is tired and worn out from continuous activity, while one who is yagea has depleted his energies by performing his deeds too fast and overexerting himself.
Malbim also understands that ayef and yagea refer to tiredness resulting from different causes. The word ayef refers to the regular state of tiredness which one with natural low-energy levels experiences, while the word yagea refers to tiredness which is the result of (over)exerting oneself. In fact, the very word yagea (which only appears in the Bible three times, in Deut. 25:18, II Sam. 17:2, and Ecc. 1:8)is related to the root of the verb yaga (“he toiled”).
So if you are wary of weariness and want to avoid fatigue, remember that all energy comes from
- L'Ilyu Nishmat my mother Bracha bat R' Dovid and my grandmother Shprintza bat R' Meir