Monday, February 14, 2011

Deeper Threads

By David Loewy, Storahtelling Maven
Storahtelling Maven Torah Reading Ritual
The Society for the Advancement of Judaism, New York City
“A pregnancy test…” is not the first answer you expect to a question
asked in synagogue, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the perfect

I’ll explain…
This past Saturday at The Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ)
on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I had the privilege of delivering
a maven interpretation of twelve verses from Parashat Tetzaveh. Now,
Tetzaveh is chock full of minutely detailed instruction regarding the
materials and assembly of the tabernacle. In particular, it dwells on
the elements of the priestly uniform. It gives a very technical
description, right up until the mention of the Urim and Tummim, the
items through which G*d will decide the fate of the Children of
Israel. They are essentially an oracle attached to the high priest’s
breastplate. Whereas everything else in the inventory of the
tabernacle is given a complete set of specifications, the Urim and
Tummim, are named and then described no further.

This leaves poor Betzalel, the biblical designer who had to implement
the construction of these items, a little in the lurch. In his
character, I turned to the congregation and asked them for examples to
follow. “What are some items that provide foresight? What are things
that tell the future?” This yielded the immediate answer: “a pregnancy

A pregnancy test gives an authoritative, binary answer and predicts a
specific result within an approximate timeframe. At the same time, it
leaves the future open enough for the questioners to begin to craft
the possible futures in their own mind. It is the perfect example of a
definite stimulus that provides a wide variety of possibilities. It
was an ideal answer to spark our discussion.

As the congregation at SAJ concluded, objects only offer the foresight
that we give them. By deeming a thing prophetic, it allows us to look
to our future. By sanctifying something as holy, we gain transcendence
in its use.  We access the spirituality within the physical world by
endowing the physical world with aspiration, insight, and hope.

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