Beautiful Books

By Yonatan Gordon

We completed our previous section by discussing brilliant or precious books as it relates to the sapphire stone.  We will now focus on how authors should exhibit and shine this beauty to their readers.

To preface this explanation, we will begin by introducing the conceptual framework behind the term “book” itself. Maps or models (partzufim) are used throughout Kabbalah to arrange the ten supernal sefirot in a conceptual order.

It is especially appropriate to construct a partzuf for the word “book” as sefirah (הספיר) is cognate to the word “book” (סֵפֶר) itself.

The Conceptual Map of a “Book”:

Crown (Keter): Sapphire (סַפִּיר)

Wisdom (Chochmah): Author/Scribe/Counter (סוֹפֵר)

Understanding (Binah): Book (סֵפֶר)

Knowledge (Da’at): Story (סִיפּוּר)

Loving-Kindness (Chesed): Tent (רישפר)

Might (Gevurah): Shofar (שופר)

Beauty (Tiferet): Beautiful (שפר)

Foundation (Yesod): “one sixth of an ox” (שפרא)

Kingship (Malchut): Number (מספר)

The Great Author

Moses is the great author of the Jewish people ( ספרא רבה). What granted him this attribute of greatness? The sages say it was the Torah that he delivered to the Jewish people. This is a clear example of how an author can become great based on the virtue of his teachings.

Greatness is a product of the encampment methodology mentioned previously. When readers feel connected to good teachings, then they also feel close to the author. The true brilliance of the Jewish author, however, was never based on his intellectual prowess alone; but in how deeply he became nullified to God. This is the beauty of Moses. Although the twelve tribes of Israel gathered together in a circle to hear him speak, it was the word of God speaking through his throat. This communal “book reading” of sorts was an exercise in coming close to God.  As a result, Moses became known as the “great teacher”—a role model for us all.

This episode around the Tent of Meeting in the desert may seem a far cry from today’s world of publishing. We are taught, however, that the Divine Presence rests upon even a single Jew who learns Torah. The opportunity to sublimate our reading experience is always present. It is our job to take advantage of this great opportunity.

Care and Compassion

In Kabbalah, to be beautiful can also mean—from the inner psychological motivation— to be caring and compassionate. While the radiance of Torah shone from Moses’ face, he remained deeply concerned about each and every member of his people. This same compassion drew the hearts of his people closer in the act of serving God. While the inner circle of students became privy to many secrets of their teacher, the entire encampment felt like “members” or “fans” in the experience.

The ideal author is a conduit for spreading Divine consciousness, while at the same time, serving as the inspirational leader among aspiring leaders.  The more compassionate the conveyance of this message, the more the glory and beauty of the Torah.

Weightless Tablets

This is perhaps the drive and motivation behind making tablets as thin and weightless as possible. What we described above is a basic human condition for enlightenment seekers. Each of us hopes and desires that the teachings we encounter are authentic. The more we perceive technology as interfering in our reading experience, the more we feel ourselves separate from true and authentic knowledge.

To frame this back in the context of our discussion: Moses was the most humble or “weightless” of all Jewish leaders yet he was also the greatest. Disciples who connected to him were engaging and encountering the Torah of God directly. The search for a weightless tablet signifies the desire that technology will one day soon disappear in the face of true content.

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