Sunday, 30 August 2009

Chesed and Gevurah - Parchment and Letters

Listening to shiur - Rabbi Eli Silberstein on Brachot 2:3. He was explaining by way of comparison to the need to pronounce the Shema properly and the need for space between each word and the next. He compared to writing a torah where obviously there has to be space between the letters and the words - this is a key scribal concept - mukefet g'vil (surrounded by parchment). If there is a join then the work is pasul (invalid).

He quotes a Polish rebbe - Rev Shlomo of Lusk - who says there is mystical significance here. What is the significance of the space between the letters in a Torah? He explains that the parchment is white and the light colour symbolises compassion and kindness. The letters however are black, dark and limiting - with specific conditions governing the letters and indeed the letters in the Torah - mostly concerned with recording laws - represent severity, judgement and restriction.

So he explains that strict judgement must be surrounded by compassion - otherwise we would not survive. In Kabbalistic terms then the parchment represents chesed - white space. Whilst the black letters represent gevurah. And in Elul we ask that the white parchment of compassion surrounds the dark letters of judgement.

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