Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Ki Tissa, just a few brief comments.

Sometimes when reading Torah and collecting the accompanying midrashim and commentary, I wonder how the great thinkers came up with some of the stuff they've derived from the parshah. An example from this week's portion is from Ex. 31:18, when G-d presents Moses with "two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of G-d." The word for stone tablets, even, or aleph-bet-nun, is translated by one sage as av-ben, meaning "father to son." The translation caters to the idea that the commandments are to be passed from father to son and so on.

Now, call me crazy but I would never have gathered that. Then again, I'm not a life-dedicated Torah scholar (yet). The way the sage goes about coming to this conclusion is that bet can either be a b or a v, depending on whether a dagesh is present. The dagesh, of course, being a little dot that appears in letters like tet or pe or kaph. It alters the meaning of the letter, according to the letters around it, as well as the vowel sounds. The dagesh is a mighty little marker. Thus you can have aleph-bet (dagesh) and bet (no dagesh)-nun, if you were only so creative to notice such intricacies of the word.

Man. I hope I can rock that hard in my pursuits someday.

Likewise, backtracking a bit, this parshah begins with a donation of a half-shekel by every individual older than 20 (a common belief is that religion is not suited for children, only adults can understand the depth and magnitude of religion and Torah). The donation is cited as "each shall pay," which in the Hebrew is v'nat'nu, or vav-nun-taph-nun-vav. Holy Moses! A palindrome! And a mighty important one (yet something else I probably wouldn't have gathered all on my own, amazing sages). Some have said that this suggests that charity is a two-way street. The Vilna Gaon says that this reminds us "that one who gives today may have to receive tomorrow." How true!


I have to admit that right now, my level of distraction is incredibly high. There's too much and too little going on at once, and I'm trying to find some balance. I will work the next seven days straight, the only brief excitement being visiting with and getting a drink with a friend visiting from Nebraska and another who recently moved here.

But between now and then and then and when Ian arrives and when I move to Chicago (March 16), is 9 days of tumult. I find it hard to focus at work, hard to focus at home, hard to focus at my coffee shop. I watch people. Gazing, skimming the thought of staring. It's a cascade, or at least it feels that way.

It always gets worse before it gets better, they say. And today was supposedly when the University of Chicago was sending out acceptance/denial letters for entrance into their graduate program. So here's to hoping.

Otherwise, well, hopefully I can re-center myself.