Folding, Half-Shekels, and Ego

One of the 30-cubit, goat-hair curtains on the outside of the Tabernacle is folded over the front of the tent (Exodus 26:9; see Thirty Cubits and Cloaking) for more on the curtains). Two aspects of this are emphasized in the commentary of Kedushat Levi, among others:

Folding: Folding [כפל, khaphal] is related to the idea of “klipah” [קלפה], the protective shell covering God’s Light in the world, according to mystical teaching. Kedushat Levi links the folding of the curtain and God’s cloaking, to protect humans from what they cannot withstand, adding that “folding over” implies reinforcing something not otherwise as strong as necessary. (Kedushat Levi, p. 473; full citations for Kedushat Levi, Stone Chumash in Source Materials.)

Half: Kedushat Levi also emphasizes the fact that the curtain is folded in half. He links “half” to “awe” through a play on the Hebrew words: the curtain, folded in “half” [חצי, chatzi], is linked via “crush” [מחץ, machatz] to “awe.” (More below.)

Additional thoughts on the concept of “half,” regarding the command to collect a half-shekel as part of the census embedded in the Tabernacle story, suggest a different direction:

Many commentators interpret homelitically that the requirement of half a coin alludes to the concept that no Jew is complete unless he joins with others; as long as we are in isolation, each of us is only “half” of our full potential.
— Stone Chumash, on Exodus 30:13

Combining these views on folding and half seem to suggest that any approach to God is best accomplished in community.

Half Explanation

The “half”-“awe” word-play Rabbi Levi Yitzchak uses is explained as follows by translator Eliyahu Monk:

…awe, i.e. יראה, is a similar word to the word מחץ, half, as it denotes the inner tension between the importance of self, ego, and the recognition that the true service of the Lord entails the negation of one’s ego, self-interest. [Folding in half] is used here as an allusion to one’s crushing one’s ego in order to serve the Lord with all one’s soul.
— Kedushat Levi, p.475).

Grammatically, I believe, the “it” in “it denotes…” is meant to be “half.” Logically, in this passage, “it” might also reference “awe.” I am not sure if/how much the difference matters. I supplied the whole quote so as not to be forced into deciding myself. In addition, Monk remarks on this particular commentary: “The author admits that these concepts are very profound.” I take this to mean that he is not entirely confident of his rendering into English obscure and heavily Hebrew-pun-laden material.

Without Monk’s translation, Kedushat Levi would be largely beyond my grasp. So I’m grateful for the effort, however inexact. Moreover, I’m actually grateful for the struggle acknowledged here: A little uncertainty in the chain of transmission and a little humility about the subject itself seems in order. Anyone claiming to neatly encapsulate communication with, or relationship to, God makes me extremely nervous.

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

Published by


Virginia blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at "A Song Every Day. Manages is on hiatus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s