Professor Raymond Dart was a famous anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. On the first day of the school year, in the manner of teachers everywhere, he opened his Introduction to Anthropology course with a lecture. However, a bit into his talk, he braced his hands on the lectern and, tucking his elbows into his hips, he executed a perfect handstand. Returning to a normal upright stance back on the floor, he continued teaching. After the hour allotted for the course, he opened the floor to questions. There were often none or, if a brave student spoke, it was to elucidate a point touched on in the lecture.
Sadly, Dr. Dart would look out at his students and say, “I did something ludicrous at the start of this class, and not one of you wants to ask me about it? You will never make good scientists. Scientists notice things and can’t rest until they understand them.”
I never opened one of my lectures in a similar fashion, but I do hope that the curious among you were unsettled when in a recent Thought Tool, I wrote:
“The Hebrew word for clothing, BeGeD, ב-ג-ד, is one of the few Hebrew words made up of 3 consecutive letters in the Hebrew alphabet, as in D→E→F. These rare words all describe actions that reveal movement with real consequences.”
Surely, you want to know what other words fit the same parameters!
Two more of these words are: נ-ס-ע (N-S-silent letter) and י-כ-ל (Y-CH-L). NaSa means to travel. It is easy to see how traveling is connected to movement. What’s more, the Bible is full of journeys. After beginning with Adam and Eve moving out of the Garden of Eden, Abraham is introduced as an important character when he is told to go from his homeland to the land God will show him. Much of the Five Books of Moses is composed of the children of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Land of Canaan.
All Biblical travels are consequential. This point is brought home when we realize that directions in the Bible often contradict geography.
We might think that when a person is labeled as ‘moving down,’ that he or she is leaving a place of high elevation for a valley or going from a mountain to a plain. The truth is that we are being given an insight into the individual’s deterioration in character. When Judah “goes down” from his brothers, it is after he neglected to defend his brother Joseph. (Genesis 38:1) He is no longer a leader in the family, and he is heading into a problematic episode in his life.
If you pay attention, you will notice that anyone in the Five Books of Moses who leaves the land of Israel is described as going down. This would certainly be true if one was about to descend a mountain. But we’re not talking topography. The person is moving from a place of holiness to a place of lesser holiness. You can see examples in Genesis 12:10, Judges 14:5, and Jonah 1:3. Alternatively, the word can imply a humbling or a person moving from a holier sphere to a more natural one, as when Moses descends from Mt. Sinai.
The second word we are noting is י-כ-ל, which has the meaning of “being able to.” The first letter of this word, the YuD (י) is the smallest Hebrew letter. It is barely a spot of ink. It is hardly physical at all, and we aren’t surprised that it is associated with holiness. The second letter, that follows immediately after the YuD in the alphabet is a KaF (כ). Note how it is shaped like a cave. The final letter in the word, the LaMeD (ל), reaches higher than any other letter, striving to reach a new level.
When we have an idea, even a wisp of one, we can let it be overshadowed by the busyness of our lives and by our insecurity as to whether it is a good idea. The KaF could become a cave where we want to crawl in, curl up in a blanket, and go to sleep, ignoring the idea. That is not the spirit of י-כ-ל. If we want to be “able,” we want to accomplish, instead we must see the KaF as an incubator. We must protect our idea while we play with it, improve it, and let it grow. Should it be worthwhile, finally, we must let it loose and strive for it to reach whatever heights it can – the LaMeD. We must let it move from our minds (YuD) to analysis (KaF) and then to actualization (LaMeD). That will be consequential, indeed.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Thought Tools post.
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