Saturday, May 26, 2007

A THREAD OF BLUE

"Let them attach a cord with a thread of blue at each corner."

(Numbers 15:38)

PARSHAT SHELACH LECHA

(5763)

"This week I want to look at light from a more mystical point of view."

"When we see light, it usually appears as white. Of course, white is a mix of all the possible colors of light. Spin a wheel with a variety of colors and it will appear white. Hold the light to a prism and it separates into the variety of colors. Or let the light reflect through water vapor in the air and a rainbow appears. The rainbow recalls the Noah story and God's covenant with humanity".

"In this portion we are commanded to place fringes on the corners of our clothing. The fringes are white, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow. However, one fringe is techelet, a purplish blue. (Today Jews keep this commandment by wearing a tallit, a prayer shawl, while at prayer. Very pious Jews wear an undershirt with four fringes all day long. Today most Jews no longer wear the thread of blue, since the precise procedure for making the dye has been lost. Some Jews have begun to wear a thread of blue once again.")

"Why this purplish blue? Why pick one color, when white contains all the colors. According to Jewish tradition, techelet is the color at the far end of the rainbow, the highest energy color we can see, the edge before radiation becomes ultraviolet rays and invisible to the eye. It is the color that stands for God=s presence in the universe".

"According to the Talmud (Menachot 43b), "Rabbi Meir said, Why is techelet different from all other colors? Because it is like the color of the sea, and the sea is like the color of the sky, and the sky is like the color of the divine throne." According to one understanding of this, when an astronaut travels into space, techelet is the last color she sees before the blackness of space. We have a thread of blue because it represents God's color, God's presence. In a very mysterious passage, the Bible speaks about how seventy elders beheld God's throne, and "under His feet there was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity." (Exodus 24:10) What color is sapphire? A dark, purplish blue".

"We look at the fringes and see white (all the colors) and see the one thread of blue. The thread of blue symbolizes God's presence. Some have said that the word techelet comes from the Hebrew word tachlit which means purpose. We see the thread of blue and recall God's purpose in creating the universe. We are reminded of our role in fulfilling God's purpose and completing creation".

"Several years ago I received a mystical insight from a rabbi out in California. (Forgive me, but I do not recall the rabbi's name.) He mentioned that if purplish blue is at one end of the rainbow, what is at the other end? What is the most low energy color? The answer is red. The red of the rainbow is next to the infrared spectrum, more low energy radiation that cannot be seen. The Hebrew for red is adom. And the Hebrew word for mankind is adam. If God is at one end of the rainbow, humanity is at the other end. Our job is to cross the rainbow, start with humanity and reach out to God".

"Now suddenly, the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" makes mystical sense. My only question - did the Wizard of Oz wear a tallit?" One of the major problems I have observed in Jewish society today is the tendency of Jews to cheat other Jews. In a societal race where the only winners are the ones who pray the longest and most enthusiastically, competitive religion arises. Jews compete against other Jews for "Yichus", roughly translated as a concept of social and religious standing based on your bloodline, and piety. Charity becomes a competition where the person who gives the most is the most honored. They have dinners in their names to promote the unselfish deed of giving charity.

"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."
-Matthew, 6:1-4

An observation of the Jesus of Matthew's Gospel on the Jewish community strikes a true chord today. Our synogogues are named for people. Our schools are named after loved ones of families that donate immense amounts of money. They do this publically, as Jesus said, and they essentially 'sound a trumpet' when they have honorary dinners. In this respect, we are a lot like the Jews of the Second Temple.

Religious observance also became a contest. Swaying and enthusiasm during prayers, which should usually be very personal meetings between each of us and God, is very apparent. Those who have the trendy tzitzit, fringes, and phlacteries are those that are believed to be the closest to God. I observed at the SOY Seforim Sale at Yeshiva University male students buying incredibly complex books and volumous sets of the Babylonian Talmud. This is pretty commonly known as a mating ritual in the Jewish world. The bigger the set of Babylonian Talmud one gets, the better person they are. Possesions and appearances become the primary mode of courtship in the Jewish community. Jesus made a very true observation about his Jewish community when Matthew wrote that he said:

"But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments"
-Matthew, 23:5

This hierarchy based on appearances is not the revolution in humanity that God wished to inspire. Courting and marriage based on outer religiousness is wrong but will not stop because the community feels that that is the true path to the Almighty, a building of "Yichus" based on outer appearances and bloodlines. We are not a caste system, but we certainly have the mentality for it. We have gone a long way in the wrong direction since Moses and Joshua's glorious revolution establishing a meritocracy. Earning is a new concept to the youth of the new Jewish community.

See! The comments still work.

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1 Comments:

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