Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Overflowing Streams & the Festival of Love

Strategically speaking, the best way to have spent Tu Be’Av would probably have been pursuing beautiful white-robed bachelorettes through the moonlit fields of Jerusalem rather than barbequing with a bunch of couples at Maayan and Enav’s Sheva Brachot in Yafo.

But life isn’t always about strategy. And those hand-made burgers were really good.

The truth is that it’s always special to celebrate with friends on joyous occasions. Having first met Maayan in the context of the Tel Aviv bi-weekly Shiur (in which several friends get together to discuss texts, sip wine, and raise heretical thoughts in a safe environment) her and I have become good friends.

And having been asked to say a few words to the happy couple, my mind turned to the connection between her name, the concept of marriage, and the Jewish festival of love we’re currently celebrating.

‘Ethics of the Fathers’ mentions two rising rabbinical stars who couldn’t be more different from each other.

In the red corner stood Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus (let’s call him EBH), referred to as a plastered cistern which didn’t lose a drop.

In the blue corner meanwhile was Elazar Ben Arakh (EBA), described as an overflowing stream (Maayan Hamitgaber in Hebrew).

One source says that if all the sages were on one scale and EBH was on the other, he would outweigh them all.

Another remembers the text slightly differently - that if all the sages including EBH were on one side and EBA on the other, he would outweigh them all.

What seems to be at stake in the discussion is who is the ideal type of student – the arch traditionalist or free thinking intellectual?

Yet regardless of who was better, what is striking is how the ‘Maayan Hamitgaber’ of EBA simply overflows with creative and intellectual energy and enriches everyone he meets.

His advice is constantly sought.

He wows his seniors with his wisdom.

He explains complex texts in ways never before heard.

Yet ultimately, the text tells us, he separates from his friends and forgets his learning.

And the story suggests that while an overflowing stream has many advantages over a plastered cistern, it dissapears unless funneled or collected somewhere.

Without a context of support, or what psychologist Donald Winnicott terms a holding environment, all EBA’s genius goes to waste.

And I began to wonder whether the same is true in relationships.

That we all have so much creative energy; dreams and ambitions; hopes and fears; future ideas and plans.

Yet without someone to share them with, to give us direction, we can’t fulfill ourselves or actualize those dreams.

And that what we need is someone who provides us a framework, who which helps us become the best person we can possibly be.

It’s what EBA was lacking.

It’s what Maayan and Enav have found in each other.

And as we celebrate the Jewish festival of love, it’s a reminder of what we should all be seeking.

3 comments:

Farrah said...

Beautiful dvar Torah, Calev! So insightful. May we all be blessed to find our balancing counterpart b'zman karov.

rina said...

this one is super good! I love it..

the "holding envrionment" is a very kabbalistic concept... where we learn that zeir anpin (male energy) is always giving and represents unlimited potential and malchut (female energy) is the vessel for the Light that ZA gives and creates the structure to manifest/actualize all that potential energy. And that's what this whole world is about- the union of the male and female energy- this is reflected in relationships bec. women can also have male energy and men can also have female energy and it keeps going back and forth bec. through that work together we're able to fulfill our tikkun.

totally appropriate for tu b'av- because av- is a month that's ruled by the sun, which always represents the male energy and the moon has no light of its own which is female energy and so on tu b'av the moon is full and the male and female are in union, which is why it's such a great time/opening for love. And also why all the main holidays fall on full moons.

Maayan said...

wow Calev- incredible post- that was really special. Thank you!!!!!!!!!

Maayan