when his opponent's sinews
in that contest stretch like steel,
he feels them under his fingers
as strings making deep melodies.
How small that is, with which we wrestle,
what wrestles with us, how immense;
were we to let ourselves, the way things do,
be conquered thus by the great storm,—
we would become far-reaching and nameless.
David stands between two lovers, God above and Israel beneath. (Invoking theosophical Kabbalah, David is malchut, the receptive-feminine-bottom for all of the Godhead, who in turn transmits the Divine influx below.)
what it means to be in the physical presence of your teacher, or to be in temporal proximity to one’s teacher
if you listen to people talk about learning in many Jewish spaces, we often use metaphors that commodify the Torah: We possess knowledge. We conquer challenging texts. Worse, we sometimes treat the text like a slave: we master it. Anna Sfard, an education professor at the University of Haifa, called these “acquisition” metaphors of learning (Sfard, “On Two Metaphors for Learning”). In this metaphor, one that Sfard claims goes back millennia, knowledge–in our case Torah–is yet another commodity.
Sfard argues that there are still aspects of the acquisition metaphor that are useful, mostly in conceptualizing learning as a transfer of knowledge from one person to another. The rabbis often lean into this aspect of acquisition, especially in the relationship between generations of students and teachers, the citational culture of the Talmud, and the idea of gneivat da’at/plagiarism. Jewish tradition often refers to Torah and tradition as an “inheritance,” which uses metaphors of property, but in fact expresses that the Torah is for the entire Jewish community, not one individual.
“A ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. But, in my experience, most times they’re just what we want to see. Most times, a ghost is a wish.”