Thursday, December 06, 2007

More to Us Than Meets the Eye


Hebrew dikduk teaches that when the letter mem is used as a prefix it is sometimes "derivative" as in זָכוֹר אֶת-הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר יְצָאתֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים 'Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; " and sometimes "superlative" i.e. stating the relative superiority of one thing to another as in מִקֹּלוֹת, מַיִם רַבִּים--אַדִּירִים מִשְׁבְּרֵי-יָם; אַדִּיר בַּמָּרוֹם יְהוָה. "Above the voices of many waters, the mighty breakers of the sea, the L-RD on high is mighty."

Although, come Shabbos, I will NOT recite the piyyut אודך כי אנפת בי as Mar Gavriel suggested, his post about it got me to think about the most famous of Chanukah Piyutim and in particular it's most popular stanza יוונים נקבצו עלי

In that stanza this rhyme appears: ומנותר קנקנים נעשה נס לשושנים Conventionally translated as : "And from the (one) remnant of the flasks, a miracle was wrought for the roses (i.e. the Nation of Israel)". Thus, the mem in the word UMinosar is conventionally interpreted as "derivative". But I think that the poetic license of piyutim allows for a "superlative" reading/translation as well: A miracle was wrought for "the roses" that exceeded the miracle wrought by the remnant of the flasks. The flask miracle was two-fold ; that it was found in a state of purity at all and that it illuminated far above and beyond what the law of conservation of mass an energy limited it to.

That after 2 millenia plus of blood soaked exile any Jews should be left at all, much less any Jews retaining an imprint of purity while storm tossed in a sea of impurity, defies odds even greater than the unbroken seal on the small flask of oil. That we continue to illuminate and dispel the darkness with a Torah who's light is transcendent and eternal, not part of the 7 days of creation but of an eighth day beyond those seven, and that we cast this light farther and wider than should be naturally possible by a landless people of minuscule numbers, has more of the eternal and infinite about it than even the 1 day oil that burned for 8.

Purity and impurity are invisible and sensory imperceptible. The difference between the two confounds and vexes the havdala challenged and havdala oblivious. Yet the difference is no less true and real for that.

Want to know more about these miraculous roses whose purity makes all the rest of the human flora seem like thorns by comparison? Read here once more with feeling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to dropback.

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