Shemot: A Path to Follow

Explore water, light and fire in Moses’ life and investigate a puzzle….

“She named him Moses, for I have pulled him from the water.” [Shemot/Exodus 2:4]

There is a rule that when we have a combination of light, water and fire, the creature whose soul (essence) consists of fire can elevate itself to the level of water, whereas the creature whose essence is water can elevate itself to the level of light. Seeing that Moses was essentially connected to water, having been “pulled from the water,” he can elevate himself to the level of light. This principle is alluded to in Exodus 34,29 “Moses was unaware that the skin of his face radiated light.”
–Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Kedushat Levi*

Considering the associations of Moses with water and light is an interesting path.
For example, Sotah 12a says that the house was filled with light when Moses was born, while he is more obviously associated with water in this portion.

For those so inclined, further investigation of the more symbolic associations of spirituality with light, water and fire could also be interesting.

In his translation of Kedushat Levi, Eliyahu Munk includes many comments of his own, especially where he notes an uncertainty about the translation. In reference to the paragraph above, he includes the following:

This “rule,” I have found explained in an article on Parshat Miketz where Pharaoh is described as standing over the water [Genesis/Breishit 41:17], and the expressions [ohr, nahar, ye’or (light, river, Nile)] are explained also by Onkelos as basically parts of one basic concept. When on different levels of spiritual significance, they are called by correspondingly different names. The interested reader will find a very enlightening article about this written in 2004 in Google under the heading [parshat miketz]. The question I had asked Google, was: [ ohr, eish, u’mayim. Ed. [note: volume includes Hebrew letters where bracketed]

Leaving aside the Google reference, this note could supply a further — if murky, to me — path of inquiry to follow.

A Puzzle to Pursue

Googling par[a]shat Miketz in “English” produces tens of thousands of references. Using the Hebrew translation feature also produces 141,000 sites, but leaves a lot — including, unfortunately, halfway readable English — to be desired. Restricting the search to various combinations of “light, fire and water” and/or including Onkelos/Targum or the specific verse, the Nile, etc. did not yield me any article that resembled the one Munk is referencing.

If anyone has better searching skills or more context to help in this search, please let me — and fellow readers — know if you achieve a more relevant result.

* Please see Source Materials for citation and details.

Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.

The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

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