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.
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Pinchas and the scary friend

My original plan, when I was assigned Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1) to offer a dvar Torah, was to skip over Pinchas and his spear and the matter of God and human vengeance. But that’s not how things worked out. I was drawn in to the Pinchas story first by a brief commentary:

And Israel attached itself unto the Baal of Peor [Numbers 25:3]. R. Eleazar ben Shammua said: Just as it is impossible for a wooden nail to be wrenched from a door without loss of some wood, so it was impossible for Israel to be wrenched from Peor without loss of some souls.
– from The Book of Legends (Bialik & Ravnitsky, 628:175)
— based on Babylonian Talmud Eiruvin 19a

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God’s Shadow (Naso Prayer Link)

“The sacred is not to be found in the appearance of the act of spirituality but in the spirit we bring to the act,” argues Elliott Kleinman (see Naso Prayer Links). His plea for bringing individual “offerings” to traditional rites, Torah study and acts of kindness in the world — rather than seeking new forms of spirituality — seems an important one. Sometimes, however, the appearance of an act of worship does say a great deal about “the spirit we bring” to it.

Variations in the Priestly Blessing [birkat kohanim] — as presented in prayerbooks across the Jewish spectrum — indicate a real struggle in Jews’ understanding of who brings what to our prayer services. If you’re already familiar with the basic history of this blessing and how contemporary prayerbooks present it, you might prefer to cut to the chase: “the spirit we bring” or jump to a teaching from Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and the Baal Shem Tov.
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Kedoshim: Great Source(s)

“Be holy, etc.!” Vayikra Rabbah 24,9, considering the words: [ki kadosh ani], “For I am holy,” asks whether it is possible that the Torah demands that we, the Jewish people, are to be as holy as He is? the Midrash’s answer is that, on the contrary the words [ki kadosh ani], indicate that true sanctity is something reserved for the Creator alone….

Recognition of the greatness of G’d inevitably leads to an awareness of the puniness of man when compared to Him. It is the awareness of our own limitations that gradually brings us closer to understanding and emulating the virtue of the [ein sof], ultimate form of humility. The school of Hillel, disciples of Hillel who was world renowned for his personal modesty and humility, followed their mentor when they formulated the concept that a spark of holiness feeds upon itself and makes ripples like a pebble thrown on the surface of the water.

This idea is also reflected in the opening words of our portion [kedoshim tihyu ], “commence the process to become holy, as it is continuous and feeds on itself.” An additional factor helping you to progress along this route is [ki kadosh ani], “for I am holy,” i.e., when you contemplate My holiness this will inspire you to emulate My holiness to the extent that it is humanly possible. In fact, G’d says that His own holiness will increase proportionate to the amount of holiness to be found amongst His people on earth.
–R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev Kedushat Levi,* pp.578-579

Ripple in still water
when there is no pebble tossed
nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand
if your cup be empty
If your cup is full
may it be again
Let it be known
there is a fountain
that was not made
by the hands of men
–from “Ripple,” by Robert Hunter
(music by Jerry Garcia)

* Please see Source Materials for full citation and additional information.

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.
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Vayakhel: Something to Notice

“…but the materials were more than enough [vehoter] for all the work that had to be done.” — Exodus/Shemot 36:7

Construction of the Tabernacle in the desert was an act that paralleled the creation of heaven and earth and corresponded to all known aspects of the order in which G’d created the universe, (B’rachot 55). Seeing that this was so, Betzalel, the chief architect of the project was granted the wisdom to understand how the letters of the aleph bet were to be used in carrying out all the details of the task entrusted to him.

Nowadays, this ability of Betzalel at the time of his building of the Tabernacle, has been granted to the righteous Torah scholars of varying degrees, who are able to reveal insights into the Torah that have not previously been revealed. By doing so, they become partners of G’d in His creation of the universe. Betzalel also imposed restrictions on himself in his use of the gift G’d gave him, so as not to preempt the Torah scholars throughout the ages an to thereby prevent them from revealing new insights. This is what is meant by the word [vehoter], “there was an overabundance,” i.e. there was enough holy spirit that had been provided to enable Betzalel and his assistants to build the Tabernacle, but instead of exhausting it at the time, Betzalel, in his modesty, was content to leave a surfeit of it to be used by Torah scholars, who in a way are also Torah “architects,” to delight their audiences with their insights in their respective generations.
— Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Kedushat Levi,* p.525-6

* Please see Source Materials for full citation and additional information.

The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued 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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Ki Tisa: A Path to Follow

Adonai, Adonai, el rachum v’chanun…” — Exodus/Shemot 34:6-7

The soul is part of God. And therefore when the soul calls out to God in prayer, part of God is, as it were, calling out to God’s own self. So, when our text says that God passed by Moses’ face, it means that Moses was overcome by reverence and filled with fear and love. And just this is the reason that the word “Adonai” is repeated. The first mentioning of “Adonai” is actually the aspect of God within Moses calling to its other, universal presence. Continue Reading