Shalshelet: The Mark of Ambivalence

gift for rabbi jewish gift jewish papercut shalshelet torah cantillation torah trope

shalshelet-torah-tropeRemember when you were studying for your bar or bat mitzvah, and you wrestled with yourself? "Do I really want to do this? Nah." Wait. My parents will be proud of me. There's a party. OK, I'll do it. 

Maybe your Torah portion included shalshelet, the rarest trope (cantillation mark) in the Torah. It appears only four times, it's long (around 30 notes), and it's difficult to master. Listen to it here.

When Lot stays in Sodom even though it is set to be destroyed, shalshelet appears on the word "vayitmahmah" (and he lingered).

When Abraham's servant hesitates in finding a wife for Abraham's son Isaac, it is used on "vayomar" (and he said).

When Joseph struggled with the temptation by Potiphar's wife, it is used on the word "vay'maen" (and he refused).

In an emotional moment for Moses, shalshelet appears in the passage when he is killing an animal for sacrifice in preparing his brother and nephews to take over his role.

For Jews, wrestling with God, and the text, and ourselves, creates tensions. Living in that tension, in the struggle, is where the beauty lies.

The papercut here of shalshelet was created for a new convert to Judaism, as a gift for his rabbi. Welcome to the beautiful struggle.

Sources: Wikipedia, JPS Tanakh

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