Posts tagged " vav "

Cause AND Effect

September 28th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

Earthquakes?  No, they do not occur because the gods are
angry.  They are caused by stressed
tectonic plates suddenly shifting.  One
great gift of science is cause and effect, which means that things don’t just
happen.  For every effect, there is a
cause. There is no need to ascribe natural events to vengeful deities.

 

But
science itself was one of the great gifts of Biblical faith.  It can hardly be a coincidence that over 90%
of the scientific, medical, and technical discoveries uncovered in the one thousand
years between 900 and 1900 came about in the Judeo Christian cultures of Europe
and North America though they contained only a small proportion of the world’s
population.

 

In
these cultures, the well-known sentence, “In the beginning, God created heaven
and earth,” helped propel western scientific discovery. Firstly, it linked God
and nature, encouraging men and women to seek deeper insight into the Creator’s
design by studying heaven and earth.  Secondly,
it suggested that nothing is random.  God
banished chaos and replaced it with fundamental cause.  Not surprisingly, advances in the natural
sciences exploded among those people possessing this enormous cultural
advantage.

 

But
Biblical culture helps us understand everyday life too.  Knowing that causes are connected to effects points
us towards wise decisions and helps us respond prudently to life’s
circumstances. 

 

Reading
about political and labor problems in Southern Africa tells us that the price
of chromium will rise, resulting in higher prices for stainless steel and
everything made of it.  Recognizing that
how a child is treated will affect what type of adult he becomes, encourages us
to take care of our marriages and families. 
Everything we do brings consequences in its wake as does anything we
neglect.

 

We
do best by becoming adept at seeking out context and connection for almost
everything.

 

This
simple but vital message emerges from ancient Jewish wisdom’s observation that
more than half the verses in the Five Books of Moses begin with the Hebrew letter
vav’. When used as a prefix in the
Lord’s language, this sixth letter of the alphabet translates as the word, ‘and’. 

 

The vav's shape graphically calls to mind a hook or a nail.  What is more, with characteristic elegance reflective
of timeless truth, the name of this letter, vav,
means a hook or a connector, the very function of the word ‘and’. 

 

Through
the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom, the Tabernacle that Moses built and which
the Israelites carried with them through the desert for forty years was not
only a House of God but also a spiritual metaphor for understanding the
world.  It is this aspect of the Tabernacle
that imbues even its picayune details with significance.

 

Scripture
describes how much silver was used in the Tabernacle construction:

 

And the silver
collected via the congregational census

 was 100 kikars plus 1,775 shekels….

(Exodus 38:25)

 

A
kikar consists of 3,000 shekels. Why didn’t the Torah just list
the total amount of silver as 301,775 shekels?

 

It
turns out that the 1,775 shekels of silver had a very special role.
Three verses later we learn:

 

And from the 1,775 shekels
of silver he made
vavim.

(Exodus 38:28)

 

 

Vavim is the plural of vav, meaning he made hooks — fasteners
or connectors.

 

Thus
we are told that the entire physical Tabernacle is held together with vavim, connectors. Rather than being an
insignificant part of the structure, they are enumerated in a way that
highlights them. The spiritual metaphor tells us that the whole world is held
together by vavim; ‘ands’.

 

If
we see events and ideas in isolation, we make a great mistake. Most verses in
the Torah begin with ‘and’ in order to train us to look forwards and backwards
– what did we do in the past that led to where we are now and how will our
future be affected by what we are doing in the present.