Volume 42 Number 26
                 Produced: Wed Feb 25 21:52:59 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Enjoying this world
         [Stan Tenen]
Halleluya vs Halleluka
         [Stan Tenen]
Judaism and Community
         [Stan Tenen]
"People" or "Nation"?
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2004 19:14:31 -0500
Subject: Re: Enjoying this world

>From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
>"Hence the opiion
>of the mystics that the fruit of the tree of knowledge was the "golden
>apple" (The ethrog) because of its great hypnotic beauty".<
>Many of the pleasure prohibitions seek to prevent "impulsiveness" in

This is correct, but it's not the whole story.

Why should we, or anyone else, consider the opinion of the mystics?

The reason why various different fruits are associated with the Tree of
Knowledge, is because that is the only way to record the _geometric_
qualities of the Tree in common language, based on living things that
people are aware of and can inspect for themselves.

As it turns out, the "golden apple" exactly fits the description in
B'reshit 1:11 of a "fruit tree yielding fruit whose seed is in
itself". We do not need to defer to the "opinion of mystics". This is

For an illustration of the "idealized apple", and how a geometric,
rather than hyper-literal, understanding of B'reshit 1:11 leads to
meaning in Torah tradition, go to

No hyper-literary reading would ever identify a t'puach ("apple") with
the geometry of a 2-torus (smoke ring) known by its quality of falling
through itself. (T'puach is like a mouth that falls through its own
perimeter. The Pe swallows the Chet, and the Chet encircles the Pe.)

This is a self-referential quality, and it leads to a dynamic geometry
that fits exactly into our hand (like a tefillin strap), and produces
_all_ of the letters of the rabbinic form of the Meruba Ashuris

There are other fruit that are also mentioned in various contexts and
commentaries with regard to the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge.

These include the pomegranate, whose seeds mimic cubeoctahedral
sphere-packing. (This leads to an explicit identification -- in all its
details -- of the discussion of the 13-petaled rose, et al., in the
Introduction to the Zohar.)

Sometimes, reference is made to the ear/corn of wheat. This is similar
to lulav also, and both represent a hierarchical arrangement like a
spinal column, or like another embodiment of B'reshit 1:11, "Fruit tree
yielding fruit whose seed is in itself."

Reference is also sometimes made to the willow tree. Its "weeping" limbs
exactly outlined the complement to our kiddush cup.

An etrog, of course, is like both an apple and a fig -- although each
has slightly different qualities, which make one or the other of these
names more appropriate in a particular circumstance. For example, the
apple and fig are inside-out to each other (in a sense). The "flower" of
the apple is on the outside, but the "flower" of the fig is on the
inside. Thus, they form -- metaphorically -- a male/female pair.

Which brings us to the pear, which is another alternate geometry. In
fact, it's hard to distinguish a pear from an apple, and the words for
each are sometimes mixed together in some languages. The English word
"PeaR", of course, is based on our root "PRi", meaning "fruit". And, of
course the word "fruit" itself is also based on the Pe-Resh root.

Much is made of the "yarok", often translated "squirting cucumber" in
Ain Dorshin, Chagigah BT. No one seems to know what a yarok is, or why
such a Kabbalistic text should be talking about cucumbers. (I challenge
anyone to make sense of Rashi's comments to the gemarah for Ain Dorshin,
without an understanding of the _geometry_ of something that could be
described as a "squirting cucumber". But I'm not going to try to squeeze
Ain Dorshin into this post. <smile>)

For a slightly different "food/fruit analogy", check out my Purim essay,
"Eating Our Words". It's at <www.meru.org/eatingwords.html>. This is a
geometric identification of hamentaschen -- and its dark-jam, often
prune- and/or poppy-seed filling. (You actually do have to look at the
drawings to understand this.)

My point is that there is really no reason to pay any attention to the
opinion of "mystics". Most mysticism (in my 30 years of research on the
subject) is based on the same sort of hyper-literal reading of
traditional texts as has so diluted the clarity of the scholarly views.

Most, if not all, of the mysteries of identification of the various
qualities of "things of Torah" come about because wordsmith scholars
presume that discussions are necessarily in poetic or literary metaphor.
This causes both mystics and scholars to build verbal houses of cards on
foundations whose metaphors are faulty. Inclusion of geometric metaphor
in the interpretation of geometric objects often ends all of the mystery
and ambiguity, and leads to clear, insightful, and useful understanding,
fully consistent even with the difficult-to-understand teachings of our

Be well.

Meru Foundation  http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>
POB 503, Sharon, MA 02067 USA  Voice: 781-784-8902 eFax: 253-663-9273


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2004 11:27:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Halleluya vs Halleluka

>From: Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...>
>In any case, my original statement was meant as neither more nor less
>than it said, basically that postings here notwithstanding, I will
>continue to follow the custom I am comfortable with (unless I am shown
>that it is somehow *worse* to use the hyphen then an "o").

Your mentioning this brings an unfortunate incident to mind. About 20
years ago, when I was first reconnecting to Judaism, I was so
un-knowledgeable that I had no inkling of the difference in approach and
perspective of the Orthodox world from the rest of the Jewish world.

A non-Jewish friend in Cincinnati arranged for me to bring my research
work to an important person (I'll leave the name out) at a center of
Reform Jewish learning in the area. Because the only exposure I'd ever
previously had to Judaism was as a child before Bar Mitzvah at good old
haimlische Pri Etz Chaim on Ocean Ave., Brooklyn (in the 1950's) I
attempted to be respectful, as would have been appropriate there. So, I
was wearing a kippa, which I had no idea at the time was going to be
offensive, and also, at one point, I showed this distinguished professor
and Reform rabbi a paper I had written where I had written "G-d" instead
of including the "o".

This tore it with him. He demanded to know why I was not writing "G-o-d"
with the "o" included. I told him it was in my understanding, a matter
of respect, and convention. He told me that he loved Judaism, but that
(basically) he didn't believe in G-d, and that it was inappropriate for
a modern Jew to acknowledge such superstition. Frankly, in my naivete, I
was totally shocked.

These days, I don't make a big deal over whether I use an "o" or a
hyphen.  My choice has been to avoid only the writing of G-d's Name in
Hebrew.  Otherwise, it's not the same at all, and then I simply refer,
for example, to the "gods" and/or "godlets" of other traditions.

And of course, in part, it's because of the reaction of this
distinguished scholar that I hold as best I can to Torah, and not to the
philosophies that do not recognize Torah nor the Uniqueness of Hashem.

This is also, in part, why I'm working to correct the scholarly
impression that Torah, Hashem, et al., are just/only/merely mythology
and legend that we might want to respect because it's our tradition.

Be well.



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2004 09:14:32 -0500
Subject: Re: Judaism and Community

>From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
> > Halachically, one is not required to live where there is a minyan.  There
> > are many frum poeple who don't live in such a place and they are not doing
> > an aveira by living there.  So going for just Pesach to such a place would
> > not seem to be any worse than living in such a place all the time.
>Judaism is not a "solitary" religion.  We cannot celebrate any week or
>holiday without community.

I wholeheartedly agree with Tzvi Stein, and would like to point out that
this is a very important issue.

There actually are two levels (at least) to Judaism.  And I don't think
one is more important than the other.

1) Personal commitment.  Each of us is responsible for mitzvot, and this
is a necessary component.  If we were living in isolation, this would be
the best we could do.  But personal commitment alone, while essential
for personal survival, is not sufficient for Jewish survival.

2) Community commitment.  In order for Judaism to be not just a blessing
for us personally -- based on our own actions and responsibilities --
but also so it can be a blessing to others, many yet unborn, it's
necessary for us to be part of a living community, defined by common
practices, that lives beyond ourselves.

This is why it is so important that we maintain commonly-held halachic
standards.  Without a community-wide understanding, there is no
community, and if there is no community, then there is no future beyond
ourselves as individuals (or as isolated families).

Our halachic community is the proper vessel in which we can live, and by
which we carry Torah forward.  Without a vessel (even if some might
complain it's a vessel that's not perfect), the "light inside" would
blow out, or burn down the barn.  Every person, every great light, every
flame, and every germ of a new oak tree, needs its vessel, its lantern,
its acorn, or it cannot survive.

This is part of the secret of Jewish survival, because no matter how
horrible the persecutions, as long as Jewish learning and practice is
distributed throughout the Jewish community, there will always be new
seeds from which a full life of Torah can grow again.

Thus, when we act only for ourselves, that's good, but it's
short-sighted.  When we act for ourselves and for our community, we
ensure the future.

And with regard to celebrating holidays: this, in particular, is very
important.  It is in the objects, prayer services, timing, and rituals
of our holidays that some of the deepest teachings of Torah tradition
are preserved (albeit sometimes unseen) through the ages.  (Even in
hamentaschen. <smile> See <www.meru.org/eatingwords.html>.)

Be well.



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2004 16:05:39 -0500
Subject: Re: "People" or "Nation"?

Alan Cooper wrote, in m-j Vol 42 #21, in response to David Ziants:
>I have no quarrel with the points that Mr. Ziants wishes to make about
>Jewish peoplehood, but I'm afraid that his philology (and apparently the
>ArtScroll siddur's) is faulty.  Part of the problem is the vagueness of
>the English words "people" and "nation," which are typically used to
>translate Hebrew am and goy, respectively.  In a classic study dating
>back to 1960, the great Semitist E. A. Speiser studied the relationship
>between the two Hebrew terms.  He found that "am was essentially a term
>denoting close family connections, and hence secondarily the extended
>family, that is, people in the sense of a larger, but fundamentally
>consanguineous body."  On the other hand, goy carries no connotation of
>personal or kinship ties within the group; a goy is a political entity
>rather than a kinship group.
>The distinction between "people" and "nation" is inadequate to convey
>the difference between am and goy, but it is useful, nonetheless.  And
>it is not a good idea, in my view, to gloss am with "nation," which
>gives the term an essentially political connotation, and loses the
>crucial aspect of kinship.

This discussion is typical of many "semantic" discussions. I'd like to
suggest that it would be useful for understanding if we make a
distinction between idiomatic meaning and functional meaning for Torah
Hebrew roots.

Without a doubt, the great linguists, semanticists, philologists, and
scholars of Torah and Torah history have all the reliable evidence with
regard to the idiomatic usage of different words and phrases in
different periods. If we'd like to know what people meant when they used
a particular word in a particular period, then the scholars and
historians are the ones who have the facts.

But this isn't the whole story. _BEFORE_ there were linguists,
semanticists, philologists, and scholars of the history of Torah, there
was just Torah (written and oral). There are words in Torah whose
meaning, both idiomatic _and_ functional, was known by our early sages.

By "functional", I mean to read the meaning of Hebrew roots based not on
their historical, idiomatic meaning that they had come to take on in a
particular time and cultural context (which is of course always changing
and evolving), but rather, as the meaning of the names of each letter
that makes up the root, as if the root were an acronym for a function.

We are taught that in Torah, the names of people, creatures, and things
are spelled as they are because they record an essential property of the
person, creature, or thing. In every instance that I've investigated
(thousands now) this has proven to be the case.

For example, Shabbos -- Shin-Bet-Tav -- literally means: Shin -
expression; Bet - in, within; Tav - itself. On Shabbos, we Shav - sit,
inside our home.  Shabbos is based on a root associated with the number
7, and this is where things get interesting. There is a universally
known geometry that displays the fact that there is always room for an
equally-sized central circular coin in the midst of 6 other
equally-sized circular coins. Shabbos sits within the other 6 days of
the week. The number 7 is typified geometrically by this fundamental
6-around-1 pattern.

There is also a question (mentioned recently by a regular contributor to
mail-jewish in one of his emailed drashot) with regard to whether
Shabbos is the King, the Queen, or the Bride and Groom. For an
illustration of how all of this can be true and in a very harmonious and
meaningful way, go to <www.meru.org/1203/ShapeofShabbos.html>.

If you can't access the URL or don't want to take the time, here's the
essence of the idea of the "King/Queen/Bride-Groom of Shabbos."

The first half of Shabbos, Shin-Bet, means "to sit", and refers to a
King who sits on his throne (as distinct from the other 6 days of the

The second half of Shabbos, Bet-Tav, means "daughter", and refers to all
women (who are all daughters), and thus refers to the Queen (of

When the two are put together, Shin-Bet and Bet-Tav, we have the
marriage of the Bride and Groom of Shabbos. (The graphic at the above
URL aids in understanding this, by providing a visual geometric
illustration of the metaphor.)

With regard to Am and Goy.

My Alcalay dictionary (in short) confirms what has been discussed
previously. AM is a kinsperson or relative, and it's related to IM, "in
the company of". The entry for "Goy" is "nation" or "gentile".

Let's now look at these two words.

AM is Ayin-MemSofit. An Ayin is a circular opening (like an eye or a
well, which is what Ayin means in the dictionary). MemSofit refers to an
expanse (such as in Yam, "sea").

So, any expanse that is all in one circle, is an AM. This can refer to a
kinship circle, or any other "set" or "group" as the mathematicians
would say (but not strictly speaking -- so please, mathematicians, don't
yell at me <smile>).

It's easy to see how the functional meaning becomes the idiomatic
meaning, as in "a circle of the expanse of kinship or nation".

Goy is spelled Gimel-Vav-Yud, and this is a very different word indeed.

Gimel (a camel) refers to what a camel does. A camel is the carrier, the
means of relationship between oases.

Vav, of course, is "and", or a representation of a "pin" or a "pole" (a
line) around which things unfurl or unfold.

Yud ("hand") is the function of our hand, which is to point, and in
particular, to point to that which we will. Thus, functionally, Yud is
also "will" and "choice".

Why is this "outside" of Judaism? Because the Yud -- one's will or
choice -- is derived from Gimel, action or relationship in the physical
world, and not from a "Higher Light". A Torah Jew "strives" to be bitul
("striving to be bitul" is, of course, an oxymoron -- but I think people
know what I mean). Why? Because being aware of the Infinity of God, we
naturally see ourselves as very, very humble indeed.

But persons who do not know Torah, and are thus not guided and informed
by Torah (or by Hashem via Torah) can only make choices based on the
relative actions of other things in the natural world and environment.

Thus, AM is inclusive of any and all affinity circles, whether Jewish or

Goy, on the other hand, does not explicitly designate anyone in
particular -- but it does explicitly exclude Torah Jews.

Be well.



End of Volume 42 Issue 26