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What Is The Reason: Knots, Songs & Wisdom Print E-mail

What Is The ReasonI always thought that tying knots in order to remember something was a practical tool, perhaps based on a superstition. One day, as I was tying my Tefillin, I wondered whether there is a basis in Judaism for tying knots in order to remember. Is that so? G.A.

The knots of the Tefillin seem to be a solid basis to consider tying knots to form a connection with something; enough of a connection so we will not forget. However, there is a midrashic basis for using knots to remember: (Bereishit Rabbah 88): “Pharaoh’s wine steward would tie a knot every day to remember Joseph, who had given him hope when he was imprisoned, and an angel would come and untie the knot so that he would forget.” (Minhagei Yeshurun, Page 138)

Shabbat Zemirot:

I am a Ba’al Teshuva and am uncomfortable with singing the Shabbat songs. The only time I ever sang songs was in camp when I was very young, and I associate the singing with being a child. Is there serious meaning to singing Shabbat zemirot? S.Y.

Rabbi Moshe de Lunzano (Shtei Yadot) explains that the most famous Shabbat songs were composed by the Ibn Ezra, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi and Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabirol. Every sentence is based on verse in the Torah, quotations from the Talmud and Midrash, and significant ideas in Jewish thought. People who are not learned enough to discuss Torah on their own, sing these songs in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of discussing Torah at the Shabbat table.

I suggest that you select one song for each Shabbat meal and study it with commentaries that bring the sources for each sentence. If you are uncomfortable singing, study the songs. They overflow with the deepest wisdom.

I believe I once heard you mention, in 1978, that the Chidah offers a curriculum of wisdom. What is the source, and can you give me the general outline? J.D.

I wish I remembered everything I said in 1978!

The Chidah is in Midbar Kadmut, Ma’arechet “Chet”.

The Chidah lists 15 steps in his curriculum:
1.    The 24 Books of the bible with proper grammar and punctuation, and familiarity with the musical notes.
2.    The six orders of Mishna.
3.    The Aggadot with explanations.
4.    The four volumes of Tur Shulchan Aruch as practical law.
5.    The method of how to study Talmud and Tosafot.
6.    How to rule in Jewish law.
7.    Traditions that have been orally transmitted from one generation to the next.
8.    Biblical exegesis.
9.    The scribal arts.
10.    How to compose songs of meaning. (See Shabbat Zemirot above.)
11.    The wisdom of uniting and connecting all parts of Jewish wisdom to each other.
12.    Sefer Yetzirah – The Book of Creation.
13.    Palm reading.
14.    The names of the angels and how to use them.
15.    The language of the animals and trees.

To be continued…
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