I have received plenty of warnings about the East Coast winters, and specifically the New York storms, wind tunnels, dirty snow, black ice and what not, all things I’m awaiting with great apprehension, “leafing” through websites for warm clothing, waterproof shoes, dawn coats, long underwear, and heated blankets. Meanwhile, not only the sun is shining beautifully outside, but my one-bedroom apartment’s temperature is controlled by central heating, and I’m sitting here in my lightest summer dress, sweating and sweltering…
I haven’t lived alone for some decades now, and forgot the pains and joys of it. The pain: the way I leave it when I rush out in the morning, is the way it welcomes me when I come back. The joy: the way I leave it when I rush out in the morning, is the way it welcomes me…
And one more on this: When living alone, the first thing to go is dinner. The second – is the bathroom door. And the decor, some of it constructed of (more and less) empty boxes. It’s in the works and will take some time, and that’s ok.
Talmud in the Street:
Among other things, we’re learning the Tractate of Bava Metzi’a which discusses civil matters such as property law and usury, as well examines one’s obligations visa-vie lost property, as owner, finder, claimer or trusty. Our minds are swirling with minutia of what to do with a lost object, how to announce it, return it, guard it, keep it and more. Then some Shabbat ago I chance upon a hand-written note pinned to the hedge near a bus-stop. It reads: “Last Monday afternoon, I left my black coat right here. If you know its whereabouts, please call the number below. If however you need it and wish to keep it, I hereby relinquish my ownership to you” (my italics). In one sentence, 119 dense pages of 10 complex chapters transform from being hundreds years old manuscript of dry law, and become – today.
Noah and the Lit Ark
In the famous story, Noah is told how to build an ark, a teiva. The word appears in the whole Bible only in two contexts; here and in the story of “baby Moses”. In both cases, a teiva is a life saving vessel, floating on the water (not a boat or basket-) and its purpose is survival rather than arrival somewhere. The root of the word is unclear and we can only learn about it from itself. Interestingly, in Modern Hebrew it can also be used for a musical bar or measure, and I can’t help but wonder, if somehow someone thought that music also qualifies as ‘life saving vessel’ which is about ‘being’ rather than ‘arriving’.
G-d doesn’t leave anything for Noah’s imagination regarding the measurements and material of which the teiva should be built. The last piece is the window. Well, not quite a window, but a tzohar, צהר another unusual word that appears only here (and from which in modern Hebrew we get tzohorayim, noon, the time of extra or double light). Rav Hirsch connects tzohar to zohar, זהר to illuminate, and Rashi, based on the midrash, says about the tzohar that is can mean both “window” or “a good gem”, both being a source of light for those in the ark: The good gem would light for those inside the closed ark from within, while, in contrast, the window would allow light from the outside. So where does light comes from? Is it something we have within us, and by the nature of who we are, emanate and share it with those around us – or – is it something far away, incomprehensible, we look for outside of ourselves, and get only a glimpse of?