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It takes two wings to fly

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HOLINESS comes in two’s. I first became aware of this in reference to Shabbos. But I became doubly aware (if that’s not a redundancy) last week as our son and daughter-in-law, Rabbi Mattis and Batya Goldberg, had twin daughters in Israel!

Holiness in two’s, indeed. Rachel and Hannah, each around six pounds (about half the size of the other Israeli Goldberg babies), are a double blessing, eliciting a quadruple dose of gratitude (and that’s not a redundancy).

The two’s of Shabbos:

Two challot, not one, are blessed (“hamotzi”), because a double portion of manna fell every Friday (Exodus 16:5).

Two names, not one, attach to the Sabbath’s Psalm 92: “hymn” (mizmor) and “song” (shir).

Twice, not once, the Sabbath is commanded: “Remember the Sabbath” (via its positive commandments; Exodus 20:8) and “Safeguard the Sabbath” (via its negative commandments; Deut. 5:12).

Pleasure on Shabbos is twofold: “delight” (oneg) and “honor” (kavod) (Isaiah 58:13).

Honoring Shabbos is a twofold restraint: from seeking daily needs, and from talking about them (Isaiah 58:13).

Punishment for violating the Shabbos is formulated in a double expression (Exodus 31:14).

Two lambs, not one and not more than two, comprise the Shabbos offering in the Temple (Numbers 28:9).

THIS week’s Torah portion marks the beginning of the Jewish people’s regular rendezvous with G-d. The book of Exodus celebrates one-time, overwhelming events that changed Jews and Judaism forever: the miraculous plague-confrontations with Pharaoh, the liberation from Egypt, and the revelation of the Divine will at Mt. Sinai. Exodus ends with the completion of the Tabernacle, which regularized the Jewish people’s access to the presence of G-d. Leviticus sets down the rituals within the Tabernacle that bring G-d’s intimate relationship with the Jewish people to fruition.

This relationship, and a few of the rituals — the holiness of the Tabernacle — come in two’s.

Most of us are familiar with a rather famous verse from Isaiah, “Holy, holy, holy is the L-rd of Hosts; the whole world is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Did you ever wonder who said these words? Earlier, Isaiah reads:

“Seraphim [angels] were standing above, at His service. Each one had six wings — with two it would cover its face, with two it would cover its legs, and with two it would fly — and one called to another, and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy . . . ’” (Isaiah 6:2-3).

Two’s. Spiritual beings, of course, do not have wings, but the metaphor comes in two’s. With two wings an angel would cover its face so as not to gaze upon the Divine presence (Rashi). With two wings an angel would cover its legs for the sake of modesty before G-d. With two wings an angel would “fly,” fulfilling G-d’s missions (ibn Ezra) or singing praises to G-d (Talmud Hagigah 13b).*

Holiness comes in two’s: intimate service of G-d with the eyes, the body, the voice (or one’s purpose), each aided by two “wings.”

Also in two’s is one of the rituals in the sacrificial offerings, the korbanot, whose etymology denotes “draw near, become intimate.” If a High Priest errs in a ruling in Jewish law, he must bring a special sin-offering. The details of the service entail the fats, the diaphragm, the innards, the hide, the head, the feet and — two kidneys (Lev. 4:9).

Holiness in two’s, everywhere you look, from antiquity onward.

Oh, and did you notice, “holy, holy, holy?” What’s next, triplets?

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

 

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