Friday, January 11, 2013

Call Me Sheleg

The goal of this blog is foster a warm + cozy conversation at your Shabbat table. Don't read it now - print and share!

Jerusalem snow-covered palm trees

First of all, there were several great entries to last week's contest to finish the joke.

The judges conferred and decided that the best punch line was:

"One America, on the rocks!"

Now, speaking of penguins, perhaps you heard that Jerusalem, City of Gold, turned white this week.

These pictures are worth a thousand words around your table.

But maybe we could ask a question about snow as well.

Why is a fresh snowfall so magical?

Think about it for a moment.

Is it because snow softens the sounds, slows the pace?

Is it because snow closes schools and is fun to play in?

The Hebrew word for snow is sheleg.

Normally, we look for significance of a word by how it's used in the Torah.

Sheleg is not used qua snow, rather to describe a perfect whiteness, as in "your sins will be made white as snow."

But the word sheleg has a peculiar quality.

Peculiar, that is, to those who study gematria (numerology). It's numerical value is 333.

Numerologists read that as: "The number three expanded to the utmost."

Or, "the ultimate in three-ness."

But what  is "three-ness"?

The number 3 in Jewish thought represents something foundational about humanity: "The world stands on 3 pillars: Torah, Avodah and Chesed" (Pirkei Avot).

(Loose translation: wisdom, spirituality, kindness)

These three qualities are exemplified by the three Patriarchs: Avraham/Abraham, Yitzchak?Isaac, Yaakov/Jacob.

Perhaps this numerology is the key to the lesson of snow.

We need those 3 pillars - Torah, Avodah and Chesed - to have a stable world. Snow shows us what the world would look like when we get the right balance of those three.

It's magical - blanketing the world with a clean whiteness, smoothing over all the bumps, hiding all the dirt.

Fox News Jeruslem snow pic
Yes, we know the dirt is there, and will be back soon enough.

But isn't it fun for a few minutes to pretend that it isn't?

But it's more than pretending. That magic is teaching us something.

It's reminding  us what the world could look like all the time, if each of us worked on the area(s) where we are deficient in our own triangle.

Final question for your table: What area do you need to work on (Torah, Avodah, Chesed) to stabilize your own snowflake?

Shabbat Shalom 

PS - In case you heard about our next Treasury Secretary but missed what I wrote about him a few weeks ago, click here.

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