5 Thoughts: Pattern Matching

1. THERE ARE TWO TORAH STORIES which have troubled me for some time.

2. The first is about the giving of the Ten Statements (AKA the “Ten Commandments,” but “statements” is closer to the actual Hebrew). What should have been a joyful event was marred by the incident of the Golden Calf — epiphany ruined by idolatry.

3. The second has to do with the consecration of the Tabernacle: the portable God-tent containing, among other things, the Ark of the Covenant (which itself contained the aforementioned Statements). This too should have been a happy occasion; it too was mitigated, this time by the Divinely dealt death of Aaron’s two sons after they crossed a ritual line.

4. So too at Jewish weddings, the rejoicing is moderated by the breaking of a glass; a commemoration of the destruction of the Holy Temple (itself a more permanent replacement for the Tabernacle).

5. A Conclusion: There is no joy unalloyed by grief — either in Torah or in life. Wise people, those Torah authors. And more than a bit sobering.

11 comments for “5 Thoughts: Pattern Matching

  1. Aron Gamman
    2020.04.20 at 1453

    Well, they confused the map with the territory, a categorical error. Maybe.

    • 2020.04.20 at 1530

      How so? (Serious question; I’m not sure I see what you’re seeing.)

      • Aron Gamman
        2020.04.20 at 1539

        They disagreed on reality / God.

        • 2020.04.20 at 1541

          Ah. Gotcha. Concur. Thanks!

          • Aron Gamman
            2020.04.20 at 1545

            I figured you’d heard the quote before. One could say the same about Aaron’s sons, but I’ve head a much wider different interpretation on whether they were being punished or whether they actually were rewarded by making them one with God. Obviously, punishment is the more “tradtional” one.

          • 2020.04.20 at 1939

            I had heard that quote, yah. As for poor Nadav and Avihu, I agree with you; I like to think the incident wasn’t punishment either, but reward (or consequence?) for zeal. God* said, “You guys have seen the formless, sizeless, choiceless Mystery — and there ain’t no going back.”

  2. Chris C.
    2020.04.20 at 2009

    I guess the only question is in how you structure your observances. Grief first, then rejoicing/catharsis? Rejoicing first, then grief/hangover? Don’t separate them? Always mingle the ecstasy with the sorrow?

    Probably just a matter of taste, just as long as you acknowledge both.

    • 2020.04.20 at 2024

      Well, the way it’s structured in the Torah (and traditional weddings) is joy first / sadness last. On the other hand, I’d rather hear the bad news first. It’s a Cosmic Crapshoot, I guess…

    • 2020.04.27 at 1956

      You just made me think of something else, that’s counter to the pattern I noted: Tonight begins Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron), one of the most somber days of the year. It is immediately followed by the merry and July-4-on-hyper-steroids Israeli Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut — 72 years and still ticking!). So, at least in one iteration, it’s “grief first, then rejoicing/catharsis.” Thanks for helping clarify this for me!

      • Chris Csernica
        2020.04.27 at 2108

        I want to add, this is one thing I miss now that I lack a spiritual life of any kind. Once I lost actual belief, the burden of proper observances was too heavy with everything else going on in my life, but proper observances are how one achieved both the lowest lows and the highest highs. Had I continued in a merely nominal way, everything would have been flatter and not worth even minimal effort. I’d like to recapture that, but I don’t know how.

        Which is, no doubt, partly because I’m stupid about things, and it takes me a decade to realize what others learn in a year.

        • 2020.04.28 at 1532

          Well, we’re all stupid in some ways. Ask my roommate how long it took me to quit trying to fix her problems and instead just listen.

          As for spiritual lives … I feel for you. I don’t have much experience with those that are faith-based. My own tradition prioritizes practice (including study) over belief, and I myself am something of a Religious Agnostic when it comes to the latter. I sincerely wish I could help you on your journey! I do know that a good starting place for any such practice is a gratitude-exercise; one doesn’t necessarily need to be grateful to something so much as grateful for.

          (…but here I am stupidly trying to fix instead of listen. My apologies.)

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