Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

The following is my best attempt to preserve the poetic nature of Hannah’s Song in I Samuel 2, by rendering it into English in rhyme, incorporating classic commentaries to elucidate its meaning.

I’m no Shakespeare, but I enjoyed the challenge of this undertaking, and I feel it makes this rendering more interesting and enjoyable to read than a direct translation. The original text is in I Samuel, Ch. 2, v. 1-10:

(1) I feel happy in my heart,

HaShem offered me a new start,

Now I may lift my head high,

HaShem is the reason why.

Penina spoke meanly to me,

For I had no children, you see,

But now I am very happy,

From Penina Hashem saved me,

For I can now open my mouth,

My son I can now speak about,

I am happy that I have a son,

I give thanks to the Holy One.

(2) There is none holy as You, Hashem,

There is no other that is like Him,

Like our God there is no other,

Forming a child inside a mother.

(3) Do not speak so arrogantly,

Penina, my rival, who was mean to me,

Do not allow the wrong kind of words

From your mouth to come out and be heard,

For what’s in your heart HaShem does know,

He counts all your deeds and the places you go.

(4) The bow of the mighty HaShem will break,

Giving strength to the stumbling and weak ones who ache.

Those who are hungry, HaShem will sate,

While for the full-bellied, hunger is their fate.

(5) Those who were once full of bread,

Will have to work to eat instead,

While those who worked to feed their hunger,

Will have so much food they’ll work no longer.

The one who had no children will give birth to seven sons,

While she with many children will mourn every one.

(6) HaShem takes life and HaShem gives it,

Raising up or lowering into the pit.

(7) HaShem makes people poor or rich,

HaShem lowers and HaShem lifts.

(8) HaShem in whom we trust,

Raises the poor from the dust,

From heaps of trash He will raise them up,

To seat them with the rich to sup,

A seat of honor shall be theirs,

With them His Glory He will share,

For the pillars of the earth belong to HaShem,

And man’s dwelling place He lays upon them.

(9) The feet of the pious HaShem will guard,

By no entrapment shall they be marred.

But the wicked in darkness will meet their end,

For a man succeeds not by the strength of his hand.

(10) HaShem will break His foes,

Even if to the heavens they rose,

From heaven upon them He blows,

Casting them down below.

HaShem will bring about justice for all,

He will give His King the strength to stand tall,

Hashem will give strength to the king He has appointed,

Increasing the kingdom of the one He has anointed.

Many sacred objects in Jewish tradition are described by Scripture or in Oral Tradition as being composed of sapphire stone. Some examples: the Throne of Glory (God’s “throne”), the Two Tablets of the Covenant, Moses’ staff.

For things such as the Throne of Glory, we can be certain the description of sapphire stone is meant figuratively, or merely in a comparative fashion, but as for the other items, whether this is meant literally or figuratively is a question for a separate discussion.

That notwithstanding, what makes the sapphire stone so special that it is the substance of choice for these sacred objects?

I had always surmised it is because of the stone’s color — it is blue, like the sky, which reminds us of the heavens generally, so its color is related to things of holiness.

However, I have discovered a new quality of sapphire which may also relate to its selection as the substance of choice for objects of supernatural origin. Here is an excerpt from Introduction to Geology by Robert Bakewell (p. 35):

Though alumine or pure clay communicates a soft quality to most stones of which it forms a principal constituent part, a very remarkable exception to this is offered in adamantine spar and the sapphire, which nearly equal the diamond in hardness. Klaproth, one of the most laborious and eminent chemists of the present age, has analysed these stones : the former contains 90 parts in the 100 of pure clay ; the latter 95 parts in the same quantity. ‘What a high degree of cohesive power (he observes) must nature command, to be able to transform such a common substance as clay (aluminous earth) into a body so eminently distinguished and ennobled as the sapphire by its hardness, brilliancy, and its resistance to the action of fire, of acids, or the effects of all-destroying time!’

So aside from its “heavenly” color, the sapphire is distinguished in that it is composed 95% of clay, a soft substance, yet despite this, is among the hardest, most durable substances on earth, rivaling the diamond! This while clay usually makes a substance softer! So sapphire, then, is a substance that in a way appears to defy the normal laws of nature. In this way, sapphire is an almost “supernatural” substance. (While I’m sure there is a naturalistic chemical explanation for this phenomenon, I merely mean to remark on the surprising quality of sapphire in this regard, giving the initial impression of an inexplicable, transcendental quality.) It makes sense then, that this substance is an appropriate choice for supernatural objects.

It also carries a profound lesson that even the most mundane and profane substances (clay) can be transformed into something extremely lofty and pristine. It is even more significant that man himself is described in Scripture as having been formed from the clay of the earth, and fashioned into a spiritual being with the introduction of a divine soul. This is very much analogous to the sapphire. I believe we have discovered something very deep and profound here.

May we merit to refine ourselves such that we, like the sapphire, transform our mundane bodies into pristine spiritual vehicles!

“That science, which, despairing of itself and aware of its own weak mind, denies the existence of a spirit, shows up with triumphant mien the apparatus of a system of bones, and thereby believes to have given an explanation of man, will with shame retire: it will yield to the healthful science which respects the spirit, and has a presentiment of the Spirit of all spirits. This science will anew enliven the world, and go hand-in-hand with Judaism, which has ever been permeated and quickened by such ideas.”
           -Abraham Geiger, Judaism and its History, p. 295

The above video, from one of my favorite science channels — IN A NUTSHELL — explains that science has determined that everything in the universe can be reduced to 17 basic particles and 4 fundamental forces. (See video for particulars.) When I heard these numbers my mind went straight to the significance in Jewish thought of these numbers. The number 17 in gimatriya (Hebrew numerology) is the equivalent value of the word טוב (Tov), meaning “good.” This word appears repeatedly in the Creation account in Genesis 1, as though the text is hinting to the 17 particles makeup of Creation. The number 4 throughout Jewish thought is always related to the Tetragrammaton, or Four-Letter Name of God, the primary name of God used throughout Hebrew Scripture. To me, this scientific discovery is like the universe screaming  of its relationship to the Creator, and shouting out loud, “God is good!” Torah-observant Jews recite Psalm 145 three times daily, in which verse 9 states: “God is good to all!” The Hebrew – טוב ה’ לכל – contains three consecutive terms — (1) “Tov” – the Hebrew word meaning “good” with the numerical value 17; (2) God’s 4-letter name (abbreviated here for reasons of sanctity); and (3) “LaKol” – meaning “to all.” I feel this verse hints at the scientific concept described above, that 17 particals + 4 forces = all; I.e. everything in the universe is comprised of 17 particles and 4 forces.

SepherHechaloth