Friday, May 09, 2014

It's all about three . . .

היום ארבעה ועשרים יום שהם שלשה שבועות ושלשה ימים בעמר
Today is twenty-four days, which is three weeks and three days of the omer
תפראת שבנצח
A day of compassion in a week of perseverance

A day of threes--twenty-four is eight threes which is three weeks and three days. There is a recurring theme of three in Jewish tradition. Abraham traveled three days when he found the place for the binding of Isaac (Gen 22:4). It was on the third new moon, the start of the third month of the liberation from Egypt that the Israelites arrived at Sinai (Ex 19:1). They spent three days in purification rituals before receiving the Asseret Debrot, the 10 utterances know as the 10 commandments (Ex 19:11). In the first chapter of Pirkei Avot, the Teachings of our sages, we learn the teaching from Shimon Ha-Tzadik, "The world rests on three things -- Torah, Avodah--Service, and Gemilut Chasadim--acts of loving kindness. And there's the thread that cycles through so much of ritual and liturgy--creation to revelation to redemption.

Three also seems to be the "magic" number when my students are preparing for their b'nei mitzvah. As they learn to chant, verse by verse, in layers. First, read and get comfortable with the Hebrew words and their meanings. Second, decode the trope, the cantillation, that gives the punctuation, the phrasing, and the music. Third, practice the verse as a whole.

And the practice itself has its meme of three. The first time through is very halting. The second time is better, with stops at the harder words and note combinations. It's with the third round that the smoothness starts to come. It's a phenomena I've now seen again and again...and again :)

Maybe it's the ancients of our heritage looking after the generations ahead. Maybe it's part of that eternal stream of tradition that my students enter into in their journey to adulthood. Maybe it's just the proof positive of "the third time's the charm."

Maybe 3 is the number of perseverance . . .

No comments: