“Service of the Heart” Midrash

Siddur (Prayerbook) with Tzitzit (Fringes of Prayer Shawl)

The following verse is one of the paragraphs of the Shema, said twice per day in Jewish liturgy:

Deuteronomy 11:13-15   13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,  14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.  15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.

The Midrash “Sifre Deut., 80a, Section 41) defines “service of the heart”:  “And to serve him (Deut 11:13):  This refers to prayer.  You might say, “This refers to prayer (according to you), but might it not refer to (Temple) service?” (The answer is no.) Since Scripture says, “With all your heart and all your soul (Duet 11:13), is there such thing a (Temple) Service in one’s heart?  Therefore, what does the verse mean by “and to serve him”?  It refers to prayer.”

Thus, the word “AVODAH” is the usual word for liturgy in Rabbinical liturgy.  “AVODAH” refers to the service of the priests, in offering sacrifices.


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Why does Laban’s name mean “white”?

For years, I’ve never seen any commentary on why Laban is called “whitie” (literally “white” in Hebrew).  “Lavanah” is one of the names of the moon in Hebrew, because it is white.

So often in literature, white is seen as good, and black with evil. Laban is associated with evil, yet his name is “Lavan”, which means “white” in Hebrew. A phrase from the Passover Seder says: “Go and realize what Laban the Aramean wished to inflict on Jacob, our patriarch. Pharaoh decreed against the males only, however Laban wish to uproot all.”

If you read “LaVaN” backwards, you get “NaVaL”, which means “villian” or “fool (intellectually and/or morally)” (Job 30:8, Deut 32:6, II Sam 3:33). Yet in the Tanach, “white” connotes purity, cleanliness, and celebration.

Not until 1666, Isaac Newton discovered that white light is a mixture of all colors. According to Wikipedia:

White light refracted in a prism revealing the color components.

Until Newton’s work became accepted, most scientists believed that white was the fundamental color of light; and that other colors were formed only by adding something to light. Newton demonstrated this was not true by passing white light through a prism, then through another prism. If the colors were added by the prism, the second prism should have added further colors to the single-colored beam. Since the single-colored beam remained a single color, Newton concluded that the prism merely separated the colors already present in the light. White light is the effect of combining the visible colors of light in suitable proportions (the same present in solar light).

Haim Shore, in his book “Coincidences in the Bible and Biblical Hebrew” suggests as light is a mixture of color, Laban is a character who mixes things, namely 1) his parents, 2) his children, 3) religious faiths, 4) languages, 5) property. What does it mean to “mix his parents and children”? Laban is the son of Betuel (JPS Genesis 28:5 And Isaac sent away Jacob; and he went to Paddan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean). Genesis 24:50 “Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said:”. Note that the son is listed before the father, and in Hebrew, the verb is singular. Out of respect, one would expect the father to speak. Yet publicly, he is known as the son of Nahor. JPS Genesis 29:5 And he said unto them: ‘Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?’ Thus Laban mixes his father and grandfather as though they are of no consequence. You are probably more familiar with the story where Laban mixes or exchanges his daughters, giving Leah to Jacob for his seven years of work, when the agreement was for Rachel.

In Genesis 31:53 Laban is continues his speech: “The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us.” (Note: Elohei can be translated “God of” or “gods of”). Here, he “mixes” the two concepts of God and religions, as if they were equal, i.e. mixing monotheism and paganism.

Genesis 31:47-48 “And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha; but Jacob called it Galeed. And Laban said: ‘This heap is witness between me and thee this day.’ Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;”. Galeed or “Gal-Ed” in Hebrew literally means “a testimony pile of stones”, but Laban calls it by the Aramaic name: “Yegar Sahaduta”, thus using language interchangeably without consequence.

And finally, Laban mixes property. In Genesis chapters 30-31, he tricks Jacob, and any attempt by Jacob to separate his cattle from Laban’s is responded to with deceit, and Laban does his utmost to obstruct such separation.

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Can Israel Compost without a Word for it?

How does Hebrew come up with new words? Quite often, an ancient “shoresh” or root (usually three letters) is taken and revised with new vowels. For example, Israel has no word for “compost” or “composter”.

They could possibly use the word the Hebrew root for “decompose” (RKV), such as “TIRKOVET” or “TARKIV”. But perhaps that is too negative, it might give you the concept of a dead body decaying.

Because of this negative connotation, sometimes the Hebrew Language Academy is open to adopting a foreign word. For example, “I called” or “I telephoned” in Hebrew is “ANI TILPANTI”. At first, you might not see it, because the letter PEH and FEH change with and without the present of the dagesh. TLPN is basically TLFN or TeLeFoNe or TeLePHoNe!

Blog inspired by: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/in-its-quest-to-go-green-the-old-hebrew-language-seeks-new-words-1.342354

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Is that really Hebrew on the side of that Volcano in Mexico?

I recently saw a presentation from Jaime Maussan, is a “ufologist” of world fame, and hosts television shows in Mexico.   His website is in Spanish, but you can see English videos of some of his presentation on YouTube.  In his presentation, I saw dozens of photos and videos, that really make you wonder about UFOs, i.e. there are many confirmed group sitings and photos/videos of unidentified flying objects… but what are they?

But one thing caught my attention to share with my Hebrew students. He told about the night March 31, 2003 in a Volcanic in Mexico called Ixtlacihualt.  It’s peaks at over 17,159 feet, and it’s located 44 miles southeast of Mexico City and is often visible from the capital.  Iztaccíhuatl’s mountain is called “White Woman” (from the nahuatl iztac “white” and cihuatl “woman”) because it resembles a woman sleeping on her back, and is often covered with snow.People saw many lights in the night, then saw something new on the mountain the next morning, which appeared to many to look like writing.

Close-Up of "Text"?

Possible Message Appears on Volcano Ixtlacihualt in Mexico

Someone thought it might be Hebrew, so they sent photos to Jerusalem, and the answer came back with four possibilities:
1) These are not symbols
2) They are letters and numbers (or perhaps letters with numerical significance)
3) They are written in Ancient Hebrew
4) The mode of the letters is Kabbalistic

If they are indeed ancient Hebrew letters, they came out with 3 or 4 possibilities.  Unfortunately, Jaime didn’t go over each in great detail, and most of his slides were in Spanish.   I don’t really rely on any of these as being accurate or reliable, but I’ll post the notes I took (right or wrong).

Ancient Hebrew Letters

1) Entonces Nacio (or NACERA) LA BURLA (EL BURLON)
3) TET YILUD LAA – 9 Nacio La Depravacion – On the ninth, the depravity will be born?
V PARIO OFENSA – Entonces Parira La Ofensa
5) 9 Pario El Crater – on the ninth, the dragon will be born (calved).

In some cases, they see the first letter as  VAV (meaning and, then) and others a TET, which being not a word, they translate as the number nine (as verses in the Bible are numbered).   The middle word seems to be YILUD (it/he will be born, or will give birth).   The last word they seem to make out at “LATZ” or maybe “LAA”, which can they seem to translate as “mockery” or “dragon”.  [I plan to do some further research with my reference books later this year.]  Jaime went on to say that for ancient Hebrew, the dragon stood for knowledge.  He also speculate that the first symbol, TET based on its shape, represents the serpent, and ancient peoples such as Mayan had serpent gods and saw flying serpent’s in the sky.  Thus, he suggests that “In Mexico (the land of the serpent), knowledge (figurative for the dragon) will be born”, partially because Mexico is such a hotbed of UFO activity.

So why would UFO’s or alien’s (or even demons) write in Hebrew in a nation that speaks Spanish?  While I do respect a lot of Jaime’s work, I can’t say I put much credence in this interpretation.  I thought carefully before posting this because it seems rather fanciful.  At least, it is interesting… and may liven up your interest in Hebrew studies.

By the way, the Bible does indeed speak of an interesting creatures called the “taninim”, even as early as Gen 1;21:  King James Version: And God created great whales,    Jewish Publication Society and also New American Standard Version: And God created the great sea-monsters.   According to the famous Jewish commentor Rashi (1140-1205), this word can mean either snake or Leviathan.   In modern Hebrew the word Taninim is used for Crocodiles (see Google Translator). Some see this as a reference to “Timiat” , a chaos monster in Babylonian mythology, and primordial goddess of the ocean.  But that’s for another blog on another day.

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Use of Hebrew in the Mystic Art of Alex Grey

I was recently enjoying the art of Alex Grey, and noticed that at least two of his paintings have Hebrew words in them.   Unfortunately, the web images were too low quality to make out the words.  In the one below, I’m guessing that he has mapped the Kabbalistic “Tree of Life” onto the human body, and the two words most visible are “Bina” (understanding) and “Chochmah” (wisdom) to the left and right of the head.  Other words seem to be slightly visible on the shoulders and elbows, and perhaps on the chakra points.

Alex Grey - Psychic Energy System

Kabblaistic - Tree of Life

The “Psychic Energy System” is part of a series “Sacred Mirror” series by Alex Grey (http://AlexGrey.com).  The series begins with low-level anatomical paintings of the human body (skeletal, circulatory, nervous system) and moves to the “higher” forms of man.

I’ll keep you posted if I find the exact words on these paintings.

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Another Possible Punctuation Changes Meaning Entirely

Normal translation (NIV): Isaiah 1:18   “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

But remember, in the Hebrew text, there are no punctuation marks.  Could this possibly be read as two questions?  “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, shall they be as white as snow?  Though they are red as crimson, shall they shall be like wool?”

Photo by Marco Bellucci

Some have preferred a sarcastic tone: “though your sins were scarlet, of course they can easily turn white; of course you know how to make innocent lambs of yourselves.”

In Hebrew, each of these phrases begins with the word “IM” (ALEPH MEM-SOFIT) which often means “if” and implies “conditionality”.  Sometimes, when combined with the word “not” / LO, it can mean “IF NOT – BUT RATHER”…

Reference: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/12/12-3/12-3-pp133-141_JETS.pdf

NOTE: I’m writing this while on the road, and I have some notes from a previous class that I plan to look up and add to this blog later this year.

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Latin Message Hidden in British Hymnal?

I recently saw an interesting BBC show called “The Truth about Christmas Carols”.  You might wonder why I’m including it in my Hebrew blog, and that’s a fair question.  I love ancient languages besides Hebrew, including Greek, Latin, Sumerian, etc…  and the show also teaches a lot about British history.

Apparently, even when certain Christmas songs were banned in England, the Catholoic “rebels” were immune from prosecution in the embassy chapels, for example, the Portuguese embassy maintained it’s own Catholic chapel that was under international law, rather than British rule.  John Francis Wade, a Jacobite (one in favor of restoring the Stewart monarchy, and thus catholicism) created a hymn book and usually recognized as the author of “Adeste Fidelis” (O Come All Ye Faithful).

Upper part of title page of Wade hymnal

Lower part of title page containing the Latin code. (Click picture to enlarge the image.)

Some would claim that “Adeste Fidelis” contains a hidden Jacobite message, that “the faithful” represents the Jacobites, Bethlehem represents London, and that “Regis Angelorum” (“King of Angels”) is a pun for “Regis Anglia” (“King of England”) – the latin for Angels and England is very similar.

At the bottom of the title page, there is an interesting Latin puzzle, you have to read it by zig-zagging up and down from the first line to the second to get the first phrase, and from the third line to the second to get the second phrase.

It comes out like this: “Quos anguis tristi dirocum vulnere stravit.  Hos Sanguis Christi miro tum munere lavit.”, translated “Those who suffer with a sad dread wound are with the blood of Christ washed afterword.”  Apparently, Christ represents “Bonnie Prince Charlie“, the Stewart prince they wanted on the throne of England.

Anyway, if it’s on TV next holiday season, try to catch the show:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00gbgt3 You can also hear some of the Christmas carols that are sung in pubs that didn’t quite make it into church and how “Shepherds breeding their sheep by night” got cleaned up a little by the Puritans.

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Reading All of Psalms in One Sitting

Psalm 103 Handwritten in English - click to read

In approximately September 2010, I had been out of work a few months, and was about to start a new job (after a previous job had fallen through), and a friend was still out of work.  I had heard of people reading the entire book of Psalms when in need, so one Erev Shabbat we started, read the whole thing out-loud (99% in English, with Psalm 92 [Song for the Shabbat] and 145 [Ashrei] in Hebrew]), alternating one chapter each.  From what I remember it took from about 6:30 or 7pm till 1am (so about 6 hours total).  Anyway, it was an interesting, and I would say motivating and inspirational experience, leaving you with the feeling that God is in control.

My job moved along smoothly (and moved to the next contract immediately after that one), and I wish I could say my friend got a job the next week; it took several months, but he did eventually get a job with better pay and benefits.

So no guarantees – but you might consider trying it sometime.

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Pun in Jeremiah – SHAQED/SHOQED

Almond Bud - Flikr photo by Ferran Turmo Gort

JPS Jeremiah 1:11-12 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying: ‘Jeremiah, what seest thou?’ And I said: ‘I see a rod of an almond-tree.’  Then said the LORD unto me: ‘Thou hast well seen; for I watch over My word to perform it.’

MAQEL SHAQED = rod of an almond tree
KI-SHOQED ANI AL D’VARI LA-ASOT – for “I-watch” over my word to perform/do it.

See the connection between SHAQED and SHOQED?
SHAQAD – means to be diligent or watchful.
There’s probably a connection why the almond tree is so -called… still working on that.

“Works of their hands” (Jer 1:16) might be a Deuteronomistic phrase.
I did a word search on “work* of hand*” (the star allowing for plurals, and omitting the pronoun), and the phrase occurs 10 times in Deuteronomy, and none in the other four books of the Pentateuch.  There are however over 200 “hits” total, occuring frequently in Psalms, the prophets, Chronicles and Kings.

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Augustine’s Disappointment in Translation

Augustine as depicted by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1480)

A while back, I was listening to an audio course on “The Confessions of Augustine”.  One thing that stuck with me was this quote (in the accompany study guide):
“Because his mother was a Christian, he first turned to the Bible but is disappointed by the quality of the language.”

If I recall, the gist was that Augustine was an expert in Latin, Greek, and rhetoric, and I presume it was the Latin translations he had of the Bible as a youngster or young man, did not meet up to the what he would consider the standards of Cicero, Virgil, etc…  He points out that when he was young, he was not taught morals, but how to write great quality Latin.

Apparently he turned to Christianity at about the age of 32 from a rather rugged life and became quite an apologist.  So the point is that the Bible translation (of his day) influenced his life and perhaps delayed his spiritual journey.

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