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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Blue     סַּפִּ֔יר

Updated: Feb 7

Parshat Mishpatim is a turning point in our study of Torah, but also in the lives of the Israelites. The ten utterances have been heard and the Israelites are now the recipients of a burgeoning set of laws which will govern every aspect of their lives.

Through these commandments the Israelites are asked to rise above themselves . They are never to forget their slavery in an Egypt, which will serve as a basis for living with kindness, compassion and unflinching justice going forward.

Toward the end of the Parsha, the deal is sealed. The Israelites accepted the laws and Aaron's sons, Aaron, Moshe and the elders ascend the mountain and viewed the sapphire road at the foot of God and the visage of Godself.

וַיִּרְא֕וּ אֵ֖ת אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְתַ֣חַת רַגְלָ֗יו כְּמַעֲשֵׂה֙ לִבְנַ֣ת הַסַּפִּ֔יר וּכְעֶ֥צֶם הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם לָטֹֽהַר׃

and they saw the God of Israel—under whose feet was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity."


The rabbis struggle over this. How could these individuals view God when it is clearly forbidden? One rabbi posits that God didn’t want to ruin such an important occasion, so the punishments were held until the time was right and each of those who peeked at God were punished with death.*


Language is not adequate to describe God, and color is also difficult to describe.

How can one possibly do justice to a force that cannot be seen. Still and all, I wanted to challenge myself to use the word Sapir, a particular shade of blue, as a way to describe that color of the floor under the hovering of The Holy One.

Perhaps it is an ill fated attempt… but it is worth thinking about these abstractions.

Look into yourself and find the place that can feel colors and there is where you can imagine the blue floor beneath God's feet.


May we hear good news soon.


Leann



 




Blue

     סַּפִּ֔יר

Blue as liquid sapphire

Blue as a baby's unseeing eyes

Blue as the jeweled borage,

the twisted morning glory,

the modest chickory flowers.



Blue as the floor over which God hovers

or stirs

or sweeps

 מְרַחֶ֖פֶת

blue

 if there are words at all.


Did you see?



Blue as deep as language allows.

Blue as invisible as the first spark,

as wide as the soul searches

as high as timelessness,

that has no below and no above

Simply

blue

     סַּפִּ֔יר


Did you see?


Can you hear the color brighten?

Blue as sky

Blue as choppy seas

Blue as squid’s ink

or midnight shadows.


Blue as language allows

as it shrinks to invisible

and ascends

עֶלְיֽוֹן


Did you see?


Blue with eyes closed

surging inward

Blue as untouchable

unreachable, 

yet blue as forever

beyond color,

and pigment,

above ordinary,

beyond extraordinary


Blue

   סַּפִּ֔יר

Blue as the secret,

as the question and the answer

Blue at the entrance to the hall

of forbidden.


Close your eyes

Hear the hovering.

Blue


Did you see?



סַּפִּ֔יר


 



וַיַּ֥עַל מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹ֑ן נָדָב֙ וַאֲבִיה֔וּא וְשִׁבְעִ֖ים מִזִּקְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel ascended;


וַיִּרְא֕וּ אֵ֖ת אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְתַ֣חַת רַגְלָ֗יו כְּמַעֲשֵׂה֙ לִבְנַ֣ת הַסַּפִּ֔יר וּכְעֶ֥צֶם הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם לָטֹֽהַר׃

and they saw the God of Israel—under whose feet was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity.

Exodus 24:10


and from Parshat Breisheet


When God began to create heaven and earth—

the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—

Genesis 1:2





Chicory flowers



 

Other posts from Words Have Wings on Parshat Mishpatim:


Ta'shma: Go and Learn



 

On the meaning of sapir: https://ohr.edu/8285


*Rashi on Exodus 24:10


ויראו את אלהי ישראל NOW THEY SAW THE GOD OF ISRAEL — They gazed intently and failing in this they peeped in their attempt to catch a glimpse of the Supreme Being, and thereby made themselves liable to death. But it was only because God did not wish to disturb the joy caused by the Giving of the Torah, that He did not punish them instantly, but waited (postponed the punishment) for Nadab and Abihu until the day when the Tabernacle was dedicated, when they were stricken with death, and for the elders until the event of which the text relates, (Numbers 11:16) “And when the people complained …. and the fire of the Lord burned among them and destroyed בקצה המחנה” — those who were the קצינים “nobles” of the camp (Midrash Tanchuma, Beha'alotcha 16).




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