Archive for the 'TaNa”KH' Category

12
Jan
11

Darkness, Jewelry, and the Brit Beyn HaBetarim


[Rafi Farber, a friend and faithful blog reader, is a director at zoara.com. In this, his third post on these pages, he continues to expound on the connection between the TaNa"CH and jewelry. CS]

There are always previously un-thought of connections to be made and the map of the Torah never ceases to reveal new patterns as one generation builds upon the preceding one. So here is the connection between the plague of darkness, Egyptian jewelry, and Hashem‘s covenant with Abraham 430 years before the Exodus took place.

The plague of darkness was rather setting the ground for the death of the firstborn and the imminent Exodus from Egypt than it was a plague in and of itself. It was one day before the darkness – the tenth of Nissan – when Moses relayed the Divine command to tie a sheep to the bedpost, in preparation for its sacrifice and the death of the Egyptian first born. The Israelites were commanded to tie up the sheep before the darkness set in, so that the Egyptians could clearly see what they were doing.

Further, our sages say that during the plague of darkness, four fifths of the Jewish people actually died – those that did not intend on leaving. They couldn’t be allowed to simply stay behind and cause a desecration of the Almighty’s name, nor could they be allowed to die in sight of the Egyptians and lead to the same. Hakadosh Baruch Hu had other plans in bringing the darkness upon Egypt – to prepare the ground and to take care of some back-issues, so to speak, with Israel.

Ancient Egyptian jewelry - rings, earrings, bracelets pendants and more

But there was one other thing the darkness was made to do, as emphasized by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch in the 19th century. During the plague of darkness, no Egyptian moved an inch. The darkness was so thick it was tangible. If a front door was open, it stayed open. If a gate was unlocked, it stayed unlocked. Everything – every Egyptian possession, treasure, valuable, was available for the taking. And yet, when the darkness cleared and the light of night began to “shine,” relatively speaking (the darkness ended at night), nothing had moved. All valuables were still there, nothing was stolen, and everything was where it should have been. The Israelites didn’t steal a single Egyptian penny.

This, more than anything else, showed the moral superiority of the Israelites. The Egyptians suddenly realized who they had been enslaving, who they had been brutally murdering for the past 210 years. A decent, moral people who wouldn’t steal even from their enemies.

At that point, God makes a request of Moses. He actually says please. “Please,” says God, “Tell the Israelites to ask their neighbors for their possessions, their riches, their jewelry, their clothing, please take it all.

No wonder the Egyptians immediately shoved everything they owned at the Jews. They didn’t take anything during the darkness, but now they were asking nicely? Take it! Take it all!

But why did God say “please?”

RaSH”I explains that Hashem said “please” because He didn’t want Abraham coming to Him accusing Him of reneging on the promise of the Brit Beyn HaBetarim – that the Jews would leave Egypt with great wealth. Therefore, He asked us to cover His back and finish the redemption process.

It’s the same with any redemption. We always have to take the last step. Otherwise nothing works. Without us completing the process, nothing even makes any sense. Ultimately, we’ll finish it, just like we did with the Paschal Lamb and the blood on the doorpost so God would pass over our houses; just like we did at the Red Sea when Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped in; just like we did with the Egyptians’ jewelry and just like we will do, eventually, in the State of Israel.

Rafi Farber

RELATED POSTS

Taba’at and Tov, The Meaning of a Good Ring

Food, Jewelry and the Torah

22
Dec
10

Taba’at and Tov, The Meaning of a Good Ring


[Another interesting post on jewelry in the TaNa"CH, by a friend and faithful blog reader from Israel. CS]

A quick look at the Hebrew word for ring, Taba’at, reveals some interesting – even inspiring – connections with the rest of creation. The root of Taba’at is three letters – Tet, Bet, and Ayin. There are three other words in Hebrew that share the same root. One is Litbo’ah – to sink. A second is Matbe’ah – coin. A third is Teva – nature, creation itself. They have the same root – the question arises therefore – what do a ring, sinking, a coin, and nature all have in common??

To figure this out, we need to decide which word is primary. We can pick the most general encompassing term, Teva, nature itself. Teva, in the Torah’s eyes, is Hashem‘s imprint on the world, it is the effect of the Omnipotent on the planet, His creation. It is doubly interesting to note that the word the Boreh Olam – Creator - uses to describe creation in Genesis (1:3, 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:25, etc)  Teva, is Tov – good – two common letters of Tet and Bet, while Tiv, in modern as well as Rabbinic Hebrew, means character, or the psychological “nature” of a person.

The Tet and the Bet, together then, signify some essential sort of nature or imprint of something onto something else. “Teva – Nature” is the imprint of the Almighty on the world. What does this have to do with sinking? Sinking is quite literally the imprint of something going down into/onto something else. A boat sinking into the sea is being enveloped in it, it is making its imprint (however temporary) on the sea. If you sink into cement, your imprint stays there.

A matbe’ah – coin – is made by imprinting, sinking some pattern into a piece of metal. And finally… Taba’at. Taba’at - ring, is only translated as such because that’s what we see when we picture that kind of jewelry on someone’s finger. But the actual word, Taba’at, at least insofar as jewelry is concerned, should be translated as “imprinter”. Why?

There are several places in TaNa”CH, in the Bible, where Taba’ot are used. When they refer to jewelry, the word is always used to signify a signet ring – a ring with an imprint, used to sign documents by Kings. It wasn’t something he just wore on his finger. It was the royal seal – the symbol of his power – that the king would sink into the wax seal on official state documents.

But in the end, it all comes back to Teva, to nature. We can only hope to imitate Hashem’s imprint on the world by making our imprint on the world, our Taba’at, as Godly, as Goodly, as Tov, as possible.

Rafi Farber
Senior Marketing Manager, Zoara.com




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