Madam I’m Adam

seeing as how there’s no parsha read this week and thus no “urban parsha” i figured i’d put up something resembling an actual an actual dvar torah…are you breathing again yet?…alright then.  it’s up a lil bit early b/c if you or ur family are anything like mine, you’ll be far too busy running around like chickens with no heads to read this on friday.  anyhoo.

im a writer and as such i feel disposed to the world of subtext, connotations, implications, and especially wordplay.  judaism is no stranger to any of these, with its wide and varied use of gematrias, anagrams, and shoreshes/roots.  i find it odd, however, that i cant recall any such drasha employing any of these towards the upcoming period [or at least, not in the way that i am about to].  so here for your humble approval, i submit my observations.

this coming rosh hashana marks not only the beginning of the new year, but also of the aseret yimei teshuva/ten days of repentance, the abbreviation of which being  עשי”ת . removing the quotations marks we are left with עשית, a perfect conjugation of the verb , לעשות—to do—into singular male or female past tense, and a hint as to what it is we are contemplating these ten days: the things that “you” [we] “have done”.

and what is it that we have done?

one of the most commonly used words for “sin” is חטא , which forms the root for the verb להחטיא—to miss.  that is what we are meant to ponder during these days: how our deeds have “missed”, or caused us to “miss”, the proper “mark” of torah and mitzvot. [interestingly enough the word for “mark” or “target” is מטרה, oddly similar to  מטר—rain, something which the torah is compared to several times in tanach.]

so then how is it that we might remedy our past deeds, our sins?  the answer starts with rosh hashana. the word שנה—year—is the root for the verb  לשנות—to change. it isn’t enough merely think about what it is we’ve done, we must take action and change it.  the ten days, with their underlying root of עשה, is the time to actively undertake or “do” these changes to our deeds, our thoughts, our personalities.

if we are successful, we see the culmination on yom kippur. the root of “kippur”— כפר —is also present in the words for “frost”— כפור —and in the words in parshat noach 6:14 describe the act of covering—כפרת —  and the material to cover with— כפר .  our success in changing our formerly less than pristine ways should result in us being protected or “covered” from the harsh judgment that our former deeds may well deserve, with our newfound cleanliness and purity that is as white as “frost” .

shana tova.

–MaNishtana

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