Monday, October 01, 2007

What Do You Think You're Shaking?

My brother came up with this idea a few years ago...
Some of what is here is my own extrapolation on his idea.

On Sukkot, we take four plants and shake them together, as a unified bundle, at the six cardinal directions. Take a few minutes to contemplate the idea of the lulav as an axis mundi.

We already have a few examples of an axis mundi — a 'world axis' around which the universe turns — in Yahadut. There's Har Sinai, where God came down and Moshe went up, uniting Heaven and Earth to give us Torah. According to some interpretations, the Mishkan in the Wilderness was a moving representation of Sinai, carrying the axis mundi with Beney Yisra’eil all the way to a new physical-temporal location: the Beit Hamiqdash on its Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to one opinion among the midrash, this is the site from which God took the earth that was molded into Adam Rishon, First Human. It is also the site of the Binding of Isaac — and notwithstanding the fact that it is named Luz-i.e.-Beit-Eil in the text, Har Hamoriya is also identified with the foundation of Jacob's Ladder, the angelic staircase seen by Ya‘aqov in a dream.

Pick up your [esrog and] lulav, and hold it in front of you, like you were about to make the berakha and wave it around. You are holding a long, thin object, a living pole that was cut from a tree. If the lulav's leaves sag, it is no longer usable. The lulav is a pole, an axis. Imagine the world turning around it. This is the center of your universe — the center of the universe.

You can pick it up and wave it around in the Six Cardinal Directions.

But if the lulav is an axis mundi, how can you move it? You can't move Mount Sinai. You can't move Mount Moriya. You can't move Yerushalayim, ‘iro shellaQodesh. Sure you can move the Mishkan, but it took an entire tribe, under the close direction of Aharon, his children, and Moshe.

So what are you doing when you're shaking the lulav? You're not shaking the lulav — you're shaking yourself. The lulav is an axis mundi; the entire universe revolves around it. You can't just pick it up and wave it at the six cardinal directions. You're waving yourself around it. But if the entire universe revolves around this axis, maybe you're not just waving yourself; maybe you're waving the entire universe.

5 Comments:

Blogger Shlomo Argamon said...

But why (other than the shape of 1/4 of the bundle) think of it as an axis mundi? And even if you do, what does it mean to say you are waving around the entire universe? (Other than the excellent exercise this must be for your arms...)

10/01/2007 11:01 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Well, as we shake in six directions, and so in the three hippest dimensions these days, it's more Archimedes' fulcrum than the axis mundi.

But the idea is certainly correct - once you accept Einstein's relativity, there's no difference between the dog wagging its tail and the tail wagging the dog. Seriously.

10/03/2007 3:57 AM  
Anonymous seebee said...

Wow!

10/03/2007 2:00 PM  
Blogger thanbo said...

If you accept Aryeh Kaplan's reading of the sefirot in the Sefer Yetzirah as a 5-dimensional space (3 physical dimensions, time, and good/evil) how does that work with your mapping?

10/07/2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

shlomo:

the bundle as a whole still has the general dimensions of a pole; much longer than it is wide. and i'm not sure what the point is, maybe something about the power of human beings to affect the world?

lipman:

the other idea my brother had was that shaking in the six directions represents calling down blessing from all sides of the three-dimensional cube space.

seebee:

thanks! or thank my brother :-P

thanbo:

i dunno... don't know anything about that besides what you just told me. there's the three physical dimensions, and the time it takes to rotate through them... and good/evil is sort of assumed?

10/07/2007 11:40 AM  

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