Sunday, 13 February 2011

Words, Connections and Relationship


Last Friday night the Rabbi gave a speech about the weekly Torah portion to be read the following day. The title of the portion was “Tetzaveh” which means to command. (Exodus 27:20) “You, [Moses], must command the Israelites...”

The curious thing about the section of Tetzaveh is that it does not mention Moses' name explicitly. The commentators explain that this is punishment for Moses asking G-d to wipe out his name too if the Israelites are wiped out (as found in this coming week's reading about the sin of the Golden Calf).

So the Rabbi asked the question what does Moses do in this week's reading? Last week Betzalel builds the ark of the covenant. This week Aaron is instructed about his service as High Priest, so what does Moses do?

The answer is in the quote from the opening line from Tetzaveh above: (Exodus 27:20) “You, [Moses], must command the Israelites...” In other words, it's Moses' job to command others what to do. However, for there to be a commander there needs to be someone who is commanded. This implies a relationship (connection) between the two.

As the Rabbi pointed out is happening right now, the commander of a particular country [Egypt] is not being listened to by those he supposedly commands. When the communication is not working between commander and commanded – the relationship has broken. So we can learn from this that words can be used to build or destroy a relationship.

Recently I volunteered at work to help ensure that a team that was being made redundant would still complete some work. Despite my attempts to communicate with them about the outstanding work, they did not do anything that I asked. It's only now that I realise that there was no relationship being built as they were leaving the company in less than a month.

Anyway, back to the main point about words either building or destroying a relationship. When a person prays [or learns a sacred text] they are building their relationship with the Creator. Every time you pray is an opportunity to enhance this relationship, but words said without emotion or only paying lip service cause the relationship to go in the other direction.

In closing two other reasons why this idea had such an impact on me this week.
  1. It explained why memorizing the first chapter of Sefer Yetzirah is making me feel more connected to the book. Repeating the words of the text aloud to memorize it is itself creating a connection and relationship with Sefer Yetzirah. 
  2. Seemingly by chance I watched Inkheart last week – a film about a man whose relationship with books was such that reading them aloud brought the characters from the stories to life.