Two by Too(th)

August 4th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

I tossed a coin a hundred times. One of these results is real and one I just made up.  Which is which?

A:  I got 48 heads, 49 tails, and 3 landed on their edge and remaining balanced upright.

B:  I got 49 heads and 51 tails.

If you chose ‘A’ you probably have a PhD in philosophy and you are wrong.

If you chose ‘B’ you have the beginnings of an understanding of how the world REALLY works.

‘A’ could happen in theory, but it doesn’t in the real world.  In the abstract world of philosophical theory, there are often many alternatives and variations but this is less true in the real world of practical living where the choice is frequently between ‘heads’ and ‘tails.’

In the political science department of the local community college, rioting is endlessly discussed as falling somewhere on the spectrum between docile and protest. However, to the real-world business owner trying to pay his employees and take home a profit, barbarians who torch his store are just plain wrong.

Real-world duality is nowhere better seen than in the male-female dichotomy.  The cutting edge of abstract theory, mostly academics and intellectuals, insists that humans can be many things or anything on the male-female spectrum. The real world, inhabited by real people know that we are each either male or female; two choices.

Successful living means that when we are confronted by the need for a decision, we can and should explore a wide range of possibilities while we are in the early abstract stage of analysis. Once we must move from theory to action, it helps to know that many decisions boil down to A/B, a choice between two alternatives.

Early on, Scripture provides us with an introduction to areas where we must clearly recognize two categories and where fuzzy thinking will lead us astray. Not surprisingly, the portal to this discussion emerges from the number two. The first time a word occurs in Scripture provides deep insight, so let’s find the first time the number two appears in its common ordinal form, ‘two’ (not ‘second’).

And of all that lives, of all flesh, two of each you shall bring into the ark to keep alive with you, male and female they should be.
(Genesis 6:19)

This reveals that the fundamental “two-ness” in the universe is male and female.  Since the ultimate act of human creativity is creating a baby, we understand that two people can be far more creative than merely one, particularly if there is a male/female dynamic.  However, two men or two women can have a male/female dynamic as well, for example in brainstorming a business idea.  At any given moment one of the participants, whether male or female biologically speaking, is implanting the seed of an idea while the other is absorbing it.  A moment later they exchange roles as the conversation continues.

Another aspect of the number two is that the Hebrew root of two is the same root as for the Hebrew word for tooth.

   שנים  two                  שנ tooth

Even the very sound of the English word “tooth” carries within itself the sound of the number two (2-th). This highlights the point that two things complement one another.  We have both upper and lower teeth and we need them both.  Having only upper teeth or only lower teeth is worse than having no teeth at all.

One of the best Biblical examples of two is the Two Tablets that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The Bible rarely refers to the Ten Commandments but calls them the Two Tablets about thirty times.  This is because the quality of two they possess is so important.  The two tablets complement one another and make it possible for us to create our moral matrix by consulting them both.

Lastly, the Hebrew word for two shares a common root with the Hebrew word for years. This informs us that there is a theme linking the concept of two to the idea of years.

                                  שנה  year                שנ  two

Each passing year naturally possesses similarities to its predecessor on both a global and a personal level.  Nonetheless, nobody experiences two successive years as being identical.

Similarly, when we think of the power of two we think of two things close enough to be counted together, but not so identical as to be duplicates.  Our spouses are incredibly close to us, we can often complete their sentences.  But they are also sufficiently different to make the connection meaningful.  I may consult two books for guidance in repairing my plumbing.  They will both be about the problem I am experiencing but, to be helpful, each should tackle the project in a different way.

We understand that if we wish to change our oneness into a two, whether in seeking a spouse or a business partner, we need to find someone close and similar but not identical.

Essentially, the number two speaks to the fundamental duality which is so much a part of life.  Day/Night.  Good/Evil. Man/Woman.  Light/Darkness. Plus/Minus.  Hot/Cold.  Yes, many ideas do exist on a spectrum, but they are easier to analyze and understand when we know the two dualities that anchor the ends of the real-world spectrum.

Fascinated by the wisdom flowing from the Hebrew language?

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7 comments

Tal Kaufman says:

Rabbi:
Thank you for this timely lesson. It reminded me of one of my favorite “two” verses: Deuteronomy 32:30. Your student and friend, Tal

Al Hoffman says:

As Iron sharpens Iron, And so a friend to a friend.
As found in Prov.

Teena says:

Dear Rabbi; Is the two, too, second, always feminine or ‘lesser’? Does this mean that time actually counts down?

Ecclesiastes mentions ‘two are better than one’ and goes on to tell why but this would never apply to a double minded person. It seems the second thought would be a doubt.

Leslie Mead says:

Did I miss the ‘stroll’ (“Nobody knew better than Moses what to do when they gang up on you. Numbers 16 details a rebellion against his leadership. Join me in a stroll through that revealing part of Scripture.”)?

Bambang Dewandaru says:

Indepth simplicity and … clarity.
Thankyou Rabbi Daniel Lappin.
From Bambang D, Jakarta

Brea says:

I appreciated this lesson very much. You are correct , much of life comes down to two choices – right now I’m in the midst of the choosing between stay/leave. Praying for God’s wisdom in making the right choice.

Kendall Rodgers says:

A few weeks ago in the Parsha Sh’lah L’kha 12 spies go and 2 come back with good report. The Haftarah then in Joshua 2, there are only 2 spies sent the 2nd time. I did not know if any of that is significant but since we were talking about 2s.
Thank you for your faithful lessons.

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