Insights into  “Word Concepts” in Torah: Gates

For Toldot, The Torah Portion of Genesis 25:19–28:9: The deep symbolism in the varied meanings of the Hebrew word "shearim."

Moshe Kempinski, | updated: 15:50

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR

Gates (Shearim)  are a powerful image and metaphor. The locked gate represents the obstacles to new growth and unexplored directions, while open gates are an invitation to new possibilities and opportunities.

In ancient days the gates were the seat of authority; "You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in allyour gates (Bechol Shaarecha)  that Hashem, your G-d, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment."(Deuteronomy 16:18).

In the book of Ruth we read "And all the people who were in the gate  ( Shaar) and the elders replied, "We are witnesses! May Hashem make the woman who is entering your house like Rachel and like Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel, and prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem."(Ruth 4:11).

 

In the book of Proverbs we read ; "She (Torah Wisdom)  utters her words at the entrances of the gates (Shearim)  in the city; ( Proverbs 1:21).

On the other hand,  Gates were the place that needed to be protected and were the barrier meant to bar those who were not to enter "And it was time to close the gate, at darkness:(Joshua 2;5)

Consequently, the concept of "Shearim-Gates" implies, Authority, Protection and Opportunity all wrapped up into  one metaphor

Yet the word Shearim implies even more.

In the Torah portion of Toldot we read .

""Isaac sowed in that land, and in that year he reaped a hundredfold (mea shearim); Hashem had blessed him" (Genesis 26:12)

The hebrew word "Shiur" which comes from the same root as the word Shearim (gates), is defined as a measure .

In addition   the Hebrew word leshaer, which is also from the same Hebrew  root  is defined as "to approximate", as in to "approximate" a "measure".

What then is the connection between these seemingly unconnected concepts. Measure and Approximation on the one hand, and  Authority, Protection and Oppurtunity on the other.

In fact, each concept actually compliments and defines the other.

When describing the Husband in Proverbs 31 we read “Her Husband is known in the gates (Be Shearim) " (Proverbs 31:23).

In the metaphorical understanding of Proverbs 31, the Husband is Hashem and we are the maiden attempting to find and connect to and "know" the Beloved.

Yet the Ultimate Infinite Creator cannot ever truly be "known". The text of the Zohar declares: “Rabbi Yehuda said: The Holy One blessed be He is transcendent in His glory. He is hidden and removed far beyond all understanding ; ...He is unknowable and beyond understanding . then how can we say , Her Husband (metaphor for G-d) is well-known in the gates (Shearim)? The Holy One makes Himself known to every one according to the measure (Shiur) of his understanding…(Zohar I:103a-b).

In our spiritual walk in life we are confronted with many gates.  They at times appears as impenetrable obstacles .At times our difficulties of entry may be a result of our expecting too much of ourselves. We may be frustrated because we expect to know too much of the Infinite G-d . A yearning that is clearly  impossible for finite creation.

To understand this we must be reminded that all that Hashem  expects from us  is to  "know"  according to the measure (Shiur) of our understanding. That is the key to the opening of all the gates. Not acknowledging the limits of our understanding keeps the Gates closed.

Yet there is a problem with that awareness as well. We do not always have a true understanding of our true measure. We underestimate our spiritual potential. As a result we underestimate our ability to break through the gates; "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."(Numbers 13:33)

We need to find the courage and insights to elevate our belief in our own potential and worth.

All spiritual walks or journey towards meaning seem to follow a similar course. At the outset ,the journey is blessed with open gates, divinely ordained meetings and perfectly orchestrated appointed encounters. That is what gives us the strength to move forward in our desire for truth and purpose.

Yet there comes a time when all those gates seem to close in our path. That is not a setback but rather a movement into the next level.

It was just as it was in the wilderness after the Exodus;

and in the wilderness. There you saw how Hashem your G-d carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place”.(Deuteronomy 1:31).

Then comes the time when G-d expects more out of you. The Gate’s closing was an opportunity for us to begin to work on working on opening them up. G-d knows our “measure”(Shiur). He has more faith in us than we have in ourselves. He knows that all the gates are accessible and waiting to be opened.

Sometimes it only takes a knock.”I sleep, but my heart is awake. Hark! My beloved is knocking:”(Song of Songs 5:2)

With that awareness all the gates become doorways into opportunity.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Esther



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