distinctions, loss of, accents, and expiry dates

For a while now, I’ve been particularly conscious of coupon expiration dates, with the dark sense of foreboding that they unconsciously bring; so much so that I have not even been using them.

[This is not completely accurate–the fact is that I have been running so quickly to the store because time has been so precious, that I have not bothered to go through the coupons, preferring time to money.]

[So perhaps it is accurate. But I still have not been using them.]

Expiry sounds so much better than expiration, don’t you think? And it reminds me of our time in Australia and our family there, always looking for connections however I can.

Conclusion has to be different from ending, I think.

I believe.

My father is reverting to his Baltimore accent now. It’s even more noticeable now that he’s gone home to LA. I think it’s his way to hold onto things, onto people, onto his crumbling sense of self.

I’m re-reading the Torah from the beginning, as part of a great project started by Rav Benny Lau, on a website called 929–Tanach b’Yachad, the purpose of which is for the general Israeli population, religious and/or secular, to read one chapter a day of the Torah, Prophets, and the Writings. Since I was unable to keep up the learning once my sister had died, I have been trying to catch up, reading more than a chapter a day. And since we’re still at the beginning of the Torah, I’m pretty familiar with it. But that’s the thing–reading something in a different format allows one to access new angles, and so I have. It was all there before, but I just never noticed.

The beginning of creation is all about divisions, refinements, distinctions. There is a category of good, not good, and also of bad/evil. Gradations. The first commandment given to the first people is “Be fruitful and multiply.” Even the commandment is doubled. The animals that Noah brought onto the ark? Doubled. And even then, a second category for the ones that would be used for sacrifices. Even many of the names of the descendents after the Tower of Babel (multilingual!) are synonyms for differentiation.

And the promise/blessing to Abraham? That his children will be as numerous as two things, not just one!

But then we have to face that cancer itself by definition is Over-dividing. Here appears what we have found out in such a difficult way, that cancer is too often just completely random bad luck. Even science admits it.

Poor lifestyle choices and inherited genes are known to raise a person’s risk of developing cancer. But new research concludes that the majority of our risk across cancer types is due to another factor: bad luck when our cells divide.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, says genetic mutations that randomly crop up as our stem cells divide are “the major contributors to cancer overall, often more important than either hereditary or external environmental factors.”

Now let’s back up…

Genesis Chapter 3:19 בְּרֵאשִׁית

בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם עַד שׁוּבְךָ אֶל-הָאֲדָמָה כִּי מִמֶּנָּה לֻקָּחְתָּ כִּי-עָפָר אַתָּה וְאֶל-עָפָר תָּשׁוּב

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’

If all of creation is about the defining and refining of finite creatures, then death is the dissolution of the distinctions, and thus the return to the earth, to dust.

Perhaps there are other ways to lose that distinction?

 שלוש עשרה מידות

רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל אומֵר. בִּשְׁלשׁ עֶשרֵה מִדּות הַתּורָה נִדְרֶשֶׁת

The learning that is done right before the first Kaddish of the morning service has to do with defining our system of distinctions. In English, it’s known as Talmudical hermeneutics; in the original Hebrew, it’s called the 13 middot, attributes, similarly named as what we call on G-d to ask for mercy. So this is the same and different. One part is to find differences; one is to call on G-d in all His differentiations in this world to help us. The last one is particularly helpful to me for this.

: יג) וְכֵן (נ”א וְכַאן) שְׁנֵי כְתוּבִים הַמַּכְחִישִׁים זֶה אֶת זֶה. עַד שֶׁיָּבוא הַכָּתוּב הַשְּׁלִישִׁי וְיַכְרִיעַ בֵּינֵיהֶם

“If two passages contradict each other, this contradiction must be reconciled by comparison with a third passage”

The coming together of opinions by way of a third way, perhaps similar to the need of the third Holy Temple, perhaps with the Shema.

שְׁמַע יִשרָאֵל ה’ אֱלהֵינוּ ה’ אֶחָד

(from Wikipedia, with some edits:)

Sh’malisten, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept)

Yisrael — Israel, in the sense of the people or congregation of Israel

Adonai — often translated as “LORD“, it is read in place of YHWH.

Eloheinu — the plural 1st person possessive of אֱלֹהִים Elohim, meaning “our God”.

Echad — the unified and cardinal number one אֶחָד

So we can hold onto distinctions in this world, without fear of crumbling or losing ourselves, as long as we recognize the Unity of it All. And I will go through my coupons, eventually.


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