I usually celebrate that we live in a world filled with so many colors; it’s so much more interesting than black and white. Now, I’m not so sure. I went shopping with my daughter for a dress for her to wear to her college graduation. We walked into a store filled with colors and different patterns. Even the right color and pattern were not enough. We then had to examine the cut and style. Frankly, I am overwhelmed. It’s so much easier to shop for a suit; just give me a solid blue or gray, and I’m happy.
The Abarbanel teaches that all the colors in the Tabernacle and the Priestly Garments were an expression of the levels of light in creation as a whole. He considers the choice of black and white to be a denial of an important aspect of creation. Rabbi Moshe Cordevero explains that colors serve as a door to the dynamics of the Kabbalistic Sefirot. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev describes blue as the darkest we should go. I think that I’ll stick to the world of colors, except when it comes to dress shopping and family portraits.
The Garden of Eden was filled with every possible variety of tree. We were never meant to be angels who see only in black and white. God wants us to be thinkers and choosers, creative beings who live in passionate colors.
There are times I fear that I am in a shrinking minority of color lovers. We seem to be increasingly dressing and living in black and white. I recently learned that some people consider colorful clothing to be immodest! “Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” (Dylan Thomas – Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night) We have never studied the words of Torah as black and white, but as black and white fire with colorful and dynamic shades of light.
“If you behave casually with Me and refuse to heed Me, then I shall lay a further blow upon you!” (Leviticus 26:21) Many great biblical commentators explain that one who does not pay attention to all the details of existence, is one who walks casually with God. The details of life are mostly in color. Few things are black and white. When we respond to tragedy with a generic, “This is a message from God that we should repent!” we choose a world without shades of color and meaning. Does anyone truly believe that 9-11, Haiti and Iceland all teach the same message? “Repent!” For what?
The world of color demands that we analyze and celebrate the subtleties of everything; the intensity, the bursts, and the countless combinations and shades of all the colors.
The people of Bethlehem saw Ruth and thought, “Moabite woman!” Boaz viewed the same Ruth and he saw Malchut – Royalty. In a world of black and white Boaz’s night with Ruth was a sin. In a world of color, it was magnificent.
I invite you to join me in celebrating the dynamic and colorful world of Torah and to search for the layers of meaning in everything we do and see. That way, you can save me, and take my daughter shopping for her next dress. Please!
Favorites: An Invitation To Engage, Insight and Application, & The Music of Halacha: A Case Study.
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Thank you & Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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