November 13, 2013

Building Teva: Ark and Word

Here are the missing sources for yesterday’s post:

Gematria linking the measurement’s of Noah’s ark — including its 30-cubit height — to the four-letter name of God, YHVH, is credited to the 16th Century Kabbalist Isaac Luria, AKA “the Ari.” I do not have an exact citation, and perhaps there is an older source as well.

Yalkut Reuveni, a 17th Century anthology of writings from kabbalist Reuben Kahana of Prague, is credited with linking Proverbs 18:10 with Noah entering the ark.

Kabbalists, including the 18th Century Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, also offer commentary linking Noah’s ark [teva] and the concept of ‘word’ (‘teva‘ can also mean ‘word’). This commentary thread focuses on the power and responsibility of language and thought.

Building Words

The dimensions of the ark — 30 [lamed, ל] X 300 [shin, ש] X 50 [nun, נ] — spell the word לשן (lashon, [tongue, language]). Levi Yitzchak says that the dimensions of the ark remind us about the “dimensions” of language:

H) the “height of the ark” alludes to the “exalted position” of God who is the source of our ability to communicate;

W) the “width is an allusion to the love and reverence” for God, engendered by the above-described experience of God’s exalted position, the distance between apparently opposite attitudes to God;

L) the length alludes to appreciating “conveniences for man that G’d has provided,” i.e., articulation travels the distance between the spiritual realm, the source of thought/word, and the physical world where speech occurs.

The essence of this teaching — if I’m getting it right, and sometimes I find Kedushat Levi a struggle — is that our survival depends on our words, and our words must be crafted with care. Or, to super-simplify: speech is a big deal with complicated dimensions.

From Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. Kedushat Levi. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Lambda Publications, 2009. See Breishit: Great Sources for more.


As part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), a cousin of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), “A Song Every Day” plans thirty daily posts with some connection to the number 30.NaBloPoMo_November_blogroll_large

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Breishit, Ethics, gematria, NaBloPoMo

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