“Ravens and Doves”
December 6, 2014
“This too, opposite the other, the Creator (Elohim) made” Kohelet (Ecclisastes) 7:14
We met in the Valley again to continue our exploration of animals in the Hebrew tradition. We picked up where we left off in the animal powers chapter in “Magic of the Ordinary”.
“A raven shouted to him “Turn back! Turn back!” (Babylonian Talmud Gitin 54a)
The passage speaks to the crow or raven as “contrary”, as in if a raven tells you to do something, you should do the opposite. Except of course, when it is telling you the truth, as was confirmed in this case by the dove. Personal experiences with raven and crow: crows are grating, can see how they represent go the other way; Crows in their nest make different sounds depending on their intention – e.g. when they encourage their babies vs warn of danger; crows/ravens are intelligent, purposeful; I try to talk to birds, “caw” “caw” – they either treat me as an intruder, or completely ignore me. This led to a general discussion of how can humans learn the language of the birds and other animals. It must involve quiet and contemplation, something akin to indigenous healers who will sit at the foot of a plant to hear its song and its instructions on how to use it for healing. There are stories of Jewish mystics through the ages who knew how to speak to animals. Is this something we can relearn?
“The ravens brought him bread and meat every morning . . . “ Kings I:17:1-6
The opening into the discussion of raven brought to mind the story of Elijah, who escapes from King Ahav, and hides out in a wadi east of the Jordan, where YHVH has commanded the ravens to feed him, which they do. So perhaps the raven is the familiar of the Hebrew mystic/prophet, nourishing him from the other worlds? Why does the text tell us it is East of the Jordan? East is the direction of new beginnings, and this is the beginning of Elijah’s story in Tanach, which will lead to teachings that will last for the ages from the story of his life: his vision quest on Mt. Sinai, his ascent to Heaven, and his role, stated each year in the Passover seder, as harbinger of the Moshiach age.
- · Raven – Orev (ayin-resh-vet)
- · Evening = ayin (aleph-resh-vet)
- · Arab – Aravi (ayin-resh-vet-yud)
- · Hebrew = Ivri (ayin-vet-resh-yud, from avar (to cross over, ayin-vet-resh)
So each of these words has equivalence, either directly from the 3-letter root Ay-R-V, or through the equivalent value of the gematria (numerical value of the letters 70+2+200 = 272 = 11 = 2 = the principle of duality, or opposites, or, contrary). So the contrary raven speaks to the blending of opposites (as in erev, evening, place where day blends to night; similarly from the same root is the word for West, Ma’a’rav, the place of blending and healing, where the sun sinks and brings on the night, where the opposites are blended and integrated and made whole (i.e. healed). And opposite peoples, Aravim and Ivrim, can the raven hold a secret that will help us recognize our sameness? Is the Erev, the evening, the time of the raven, the time to paradoxically both distinguish and blend?
Frustration, anger: “Animals are so much better than humans, I am sick over the news of the lack of indictments for the killing of young blacks by white police. Animals don’t kill for politics or hatred or prejudice, or anything other than natural balance.” Crows have the ability to recognize human faces, as the experiments with the upside-down Nixon mask demonstrated. Humans seem to have an inability to see the humanity of other humans not like us – unable to recognize other races. This is seen in the story of how the Israelites rejoiced at the drowning of the pursuing Egyptians, until they were admonished by the Holy One: “how can you rejoice when my children are dying?”
Other comments on ravens, doves, and other birds of Tanach
- · Dove: truth-teller, dove of Noah. Dove may be the earthly counterpart to the more spirit-world raven. The raven knows where the food and water are (Elijah story) – that’s an important animal!
- · Vulture: the Ayit that reconciled the ritual of the pieces, that Abraham performed in Genesis 15:9-11. Also the Nesher (usually translated as “eagle”). The vulture is a purifying machine, a “death eater” that never itself takes a life.
- · From “Medicine Cards”, Native American associations with crow: First hand order of right and wrong. Omen of change. Lives in the void.
· Study of the animal realm goes right to the heart of the question of “what does it mean to be indigenous?” It means to be “of the land”, and the understanding of the animal spirits and our relation to them goes right to the meat of that concept.
They said “you did not tithe your harvest to the poor”. Jerusalem Talmud, D’mai I:3
An odd story of mice infesting the storehouses of grain until Rabbi Pinhas ben Ya’ir listens to them and they tell him in their chirpy language that it is for the above reason. The mice, if we could listen and understand, tell us of the rightness, or not, of our relation to earth and the instructions from Torah of how to live a life of proper balance and harmony. Talking mice? There are many instances of talking animals (e.g. the donkey of Balaam), stones, trees in the Jewish texts, prompting the exclamation, “they should teach us that in Hebrew school! . . . so we could see what mouse has to say!” There is a perfection and simplicity in nature that we humans lack. Language adds something to humans, leads to meaning, a way to touch each other. But modern people can learn and be taught to listen differently, to hear what the birds have to say when we’re out on silent spiritual quests, if we can reconnect again with Adamah, earth, in ancient ways.
The concept of listening, deeply listening, is core to the Hebrew way of viewing existence. Shemah Yisrael – listen you who wrestles with Spirit – YHVH Eloheinu – the Infinite One is the Creator who encompasses all diversity – YHVH Echad - that Diversity IS Unity. And: Im shamoah tish’ma’ooh – if you will listen, REALLY listen, to all the teachings that tell you how to be in right relation to Spirit and Earth, then the rains will fall, and the fields will produce, and all will eat and be satisfied. Ki Tov – it is good, it is sufficient. Our tradition teaches us animism, that all is alive – there is an angel associated with each blade of grass! – just as all earth-based traditions.
From the perspective of the indigenous Hebrew tradition, it is clear that the One God is not a separate Being, as the misdirection of “Judeo-Christian” history has led us to believe, but rather the Shemah is meant to teach us that the One IS the Diversity.
Saturday, December 20, all day retreat. Times and location to be announced.
Saturday, January 10 – a special event;
· 10 AM – noon: Torah study
· Noon: Pot luck lunch
· ~1 – 3: Screening of “Aluna” – the teachings and warnings of the Kogi people, indigenous to the mountains of coastal Colombia, who have descended after millennia of maintaining their separateness, to tell us (their “younger brothers”) of the impending destruction of the Earth Mother that Western mind is perpetrating. This is a profound film with a profound message for our times.