Marc Alain Ouaknin: Signs…

Marc Alain Ouaknin

Perfect signs

for never does the meaning of these symbols completely dismiss the materiality of the symbols that suggest it and that always preserve an undreamed-of power to renew this meaning; never does the mind dismiss the letter that reveals it to itself. On the contrary, the mind awakens in the letter new possibilities of suggestion (E. Levinas)
As a collection of perfect signs, the Text can never be attained. One say that it is caressed. So in spite of the analysis undertaken, it spite of the research, the bursting open, the laying bare, the text slips out of our grasp, remains inaccessible, always yet to come. It reveals itself only to withdraw immediately. The text is both “visible and in-visible” at the same time; ambiguous, its meaning twinkles, it remains an enigma: “Transcendence owes it to itself to interrupt its own demonsttation. Its voice has to be silent as soon as one listens for its message.”
But the Text withdraws only if we let it; the interruption of the demonstrationof transcendence, the movement of necessary withdrawal depends, above all, on the interpreter, on his way of being as he reads the text, on his approach. We call this way of being the “caress”: the caress is a modality of the subject, where the subject in his relation with the Text goes beyond the relation, for “that which is caressed is not actually touched”; “the caress is the non-coinciding proper to contact, a denuding never naked enough.”
The caress consists in seizing upon nothing, in soliciting what unceaselessly escapes its form toward a future never future enough, in soliciting what slips away as though it were not yet. (E. Levinas)
In short, the caress is research. In this research the caress does not what it is seeking. This “not knowing,” this “fundamental disorder,” is central to this way of being. The relation to the Text authorizing the transcendence of the voices of the Text will therefore be like” a game utterly without project or plan.”
Study, considered as research, allows one to experience. In this respect we can contrast the expressions “to have an experience” and actually “to experience.” “To have” refers to possession, to knowing, to settling back with satisfaction, to the confidence that acquisition confers; in the “having,” the experience is confirmed by repetition. But since the experience is repeated and confirmed, it cannot be something that renews itself. Consequently, that which originally was unforeseen is now foreseen. “To have” an experience of the Text is to understand it, grasp it, possess it, because it is its repetition that gives it substance. But once it becomes visible, graspable, the Text takes on the shape and status of an idol. Its language becomes totalitarian: “stereotyped, remaining frozen in meanings set and imposed once and for all without consideration for situations and experiences that may have changed.” The idol-text is “set out and crushes because of both its weight and its unchangingness.”
There is no longer any question of “having” an experience with the Text. Studying no longer means knowing in advance the results of one’s research. Nothing should fulfill our expectations. “Experiencing is always, at first, an experience of negativity: the thing is not such as we thought. Our knowledge and its object are both altered with the experience of another object.”
“To experience” means to participate in opening. The “man of experience” – in our context, the interpreter – is not only the one who has become such as a result of his experiences (already acquired}, but the one who is open to experiences.
The fullness of experience, the fullness of being of the person we call experienced, does not consist in the fact that he already knows everything and knows it better. The man of experience turns out to be radically foreign to all dogmatism. (Gadamer)
The interpreter experiences things by caressing: never seizing anything, he allows himself to be carried, negatively and infinitely, from one meaning to another, so that if one had to locate (in the Text) a center, an origin of meaning, a god that gives the meaning, one would find it only in the void, empty of language, the “blanks of writing.”
We can then understand why study is symbolized by the written form of the letter Lamed, the only one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet to go over the line, to trans-gress, to thrust itself “beyond the verse.” Lamed, the last letter of the Torah…
So the Text should be elusive, impregnable, and should never take on the form of an idol. The Cabalists explain that the Text, the Torah, and God are one (Rahamana vekudsha beirikh hu, had hu). In refusing to lay one’s hand on the Text, one also refuses to lay one’s hand on the divinity. The relationship with the text and with God is paradoxical: one must move away, create a distance, if the relation with God is not going to be idolatrous. This is what Henri Atlan calls the “atheism of writing”:
The primary preoccupation of biblical teaching is not the existence of God, theism as contrasted with atheism, but the fight against idolatry. In all theism there is the danger of idolatry. All theism is idolatry, since expression signifies it, thereby freezing it; except if, somehow, its discourse refutes itself and so becomes atheistic. In other words, the paradoxes of language and its meanings are such that the only discourse possible about God which is not idolatrous is an atheistic discourse. Or: in any discourse the only God that is not an idol is a God who is not God.’
All the masters of Jewish thought, from the prophets to the contemporary masters, have understood that…
The system of interpretation-besides its necessity for the phenomenon of understanding-is founded on the will to refuse idolatry. The Text, which is the primary relation to God, must not turn into an idol. The temptation of idolatry is strong-one need only remember the golden calf, made right after the Revelation; it is the temptation of appearances, of Presence. “The idol gives us the divine, and so does not deceive or disappoint.” The idol-in this case, the Text, given up to the grasp of the hand, the manual-reassures; the idol brings things closer:
What the idol tries to reduce is the gap and the withdrawal of the divine… Filling in for the absence of the divinity, the idol brings the divine within reach, ensures its presence, and, eventually, distorts it. Its completion finishes the divine off. The idol tries to bring us closer to the divine and to put it at our disposal: because he is afraid of atheism, the worshiper lays his hand on the divine in the form of a god; but this taking in hand loses what it grasps: all that is left is a too-familiar, too tangible, too assured amulet… The idol lacks the distance that identifies and authenticates the divine as such-as that which does not belong to us, but which happens to us. (J.L.Marion)
To avoid the trap of idolatry – the illusion of possessing the meaning – Hebrew tradition has introduced the idea of levels of meaning. It is sufficient to say that four levels of reading can be found, which are called: -Pshat: the simple or literal meaning -Remez: allusive meaning -Drash: solicited (exegetical) meaning -Sod: hidden or secret meaning.

uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud p. 63-65

Hebrew: the Man and his Language
There are two relations to the Hebrew language. On the one hand, Hebrew is a language that adheres extremely closely to matter, space, and time; “its words, sounds, die materiality of the shape of its letters follow the contours and the rhythms of the world and creation. Hebrew is the geo-graphy (die writing of the earth) and die geo-metry (the measuring of die earth) of the created.”
Hebrew brings the world before our eyes, frees the world from itself in order for us to apprehend it, understand and take hold of it. For the Hebrew mind, the Hebrew language is the most immediate of realities. “The Hebrew mind knows of a profound secret, that all reality – the densest and most physical – is constituted by language, by its words, by the infinite vibrations of its voices and echoes.” In Hebrew tradition, language is first of all a spectacle. Revelation is, above all, seeing! ” And all die people saw die voices…” (Exod. 20:18). The visible is the voices made writing.
That being the case, die world is revealed, shows itself; we can grasp it because language has offered it to us. But is the world there? Is it not, in act, a projected being, a reality that passes by in movement? Does not the world made visible run the risk like the text and through the text, of becoming an idol?
These questions imply a second function of the Hebrew language that, contrastingly, does not freeze the world and the whole of reality in the present, but that, on the contrary, forges a path toward absence; it is a function of this language, which has the ability to burst open, to pulverize itself in a thousand pieces, to work a derealization of reality “by which the proud self-assurance of all the realities of this world, the clear conscience of idolatry, fall in ruins into die emptiness of their vanity .”
It is important to stop here a moment to examine die Hebrew word for “Hebrew,” die man and his language: ‘Ivri and ‘Ivrit. The Hebrew, in his etymological meaning, is a passer-through (la’avor), a breaker-off (‘avera), a transgressor (‘avera), a passer-on, a producer and a creator (ubar, me’uberet, ibur hahodesh); he is also someone who takes into account that which is outside of himself (Ba’avur she…)
These are all words from die root ‘I, V, R.
The Hebrew tears himself away, protests, passes through…
The Hebrew-passer-through “not only invites us to go from one riverbank to the other [passeur, lit. “ferryman”], but to head every- where where there is a passage to be achieved, while maintaining this between-two-banks that is the truth of the passing.” For the Hebrew, existing is becoming. The Hebrew is not something that is, but something that will be. It is a matter of creation. So, the Hebrew will be in a perpetual becoming, in a becoming that is yet to come (à-venir). The Hebrew is messianic! inasmuch as “messianism is not the certainty of the corning of a man who will bring history to a halt,” but a way of being of every man in time. The Hebrew-messiah lives in the temporality of the yet-to-come (à-venir; avenir: “future”), of the ever yet-to-come. The Hebrew is not in time; he produces time. Time is what emerges from the “caress” between the hand that approaches and the body of the text (and of the world) that slips away. In this messianic temporality, it is “as if the world existed and did not exist at the same time, perpetually slipping away, re-creating each instant.”
The Hebrew language, ‘Ivrit, should reflect this passing, this “in the process of being” (en-train-d’etre)-the essence-of man and of the world…
The contradition between the two functions of language cannot be resolved in an artificial synthesis or by giving more importance to one of the two terms. The Hebrew language gives and takes at the same time, fixes and dissolves, builds and destroys, states and retracts.
That is why it has been said that Hebrew is metaphorical. We would prefer-from the point of view of contemporary philosophical research-to say that Hebrew is a trace.
And if “the trace is not a presence but the simulacrum of a presence that dislocates itself, displaces itself, postpones itself, it properly speaking does not take place” because the effacing is part of its structure, then we now have to describe all the strategic means that have been set up to make the effacing, the breaking up of Hebrew possible.
Books within Books: Black fire on White Fire
“In the beginning was the Book!” But is the book of the beginning the same as the one we can read in our libraries? Is there not the Book and, simply, books? Is the Torah we have identical to “God’s Torah”?
Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish teaches: The Torah that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave to Moses is a white fire, engraved on a black fire; it is of fire, graven by fire, given by fire, as it is said: “Written with his right hand, a law of fire (Esh-dat) for them.”
Nahmanides comments this text in the following manner: “We possess an authentic tradition, according to which the whole Torah is made up of all the Names of God. So the words that we read can also be distributed in quite another manner. The Torah written “black fire on white fire” means that the text was written without any breaks, in an interrupted sequence from the first to the last letter. This writing makes up a Name that can be divided into Names.”
uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud p. 73-75

The Preeminence of the Questioning Word

Mahloket, the first principle of dialogue of the Talmud, is profoundly linked to a certain conception of hermeneutics and truth. The fact that a single text can offer innumerable interpretations implies that there is no “right” interpretation. This leads us to leave behind the binary logic of true and false ( of Greek logic), to enter into ” what we shall call the “logic of meaning.”
As Nietzsche expresses very well: “There are all sorts of eyes . . . and consequently there are all sorts of truths, and consequently, there is no truth. ” To really enter Talmudic thought, each time a certainty is asserted one should seek the opposite assertion that it is related to. In this way, Talmudic thought never stops opposing itself, yet without ever contenting itself with satisfying this opposition. With this form of thought goes a speech whose modality keeps open the requirement for a dynamic approach. This is, to our mind, the “questioning word,” the question.
The question is movement. In the mere grammatical structure of the question we already feel this opening of the questioning word: there is the request for something else; incomplete, the word that questions recognizes that it is only a part. Thus the question is essentially partial; it is the setting where speech offers itself as ever incomplete…
The question, if it is the unfinished word, bases itself on incompletion. It is not incomplete as a question; on the contrary it is speech that the fact of declaring itself incomplete fulfills. The question puts the sufficient assertion back into the void; it enriches it with this preexisting void. Through the question, we give ourselves the thing and also the void that allows us to not have it yet or to have it in the form of desire for thought.(M . Blanchot)
Talmudic thought is the thinking of the question, and it is no mere chance that the very first word of the Talmud is a question: Meematai (From what time?).
Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav explains that the interrelational space of Mahloket issues from the hallal hapanui, necessary for creation. God withdraws; he leaves an “empty space” (hallat hapanui) that is essentially the original space of all questions, because it contains the question of questions: the Enigma! God withdraws: so he is absent! But can something exist cut off from the vitality that the divinity breathes into it? No! So God is present. Yesh-ve-ayin, “Being and nothingness” coexist. When two masters discuss together, the relation originates in this paradox: that is what is called the Bina. It is not a matter of intellectual capacity or quality, but of a relational attitude, of dialogue, that must be maintained. What is there between the two masters who confront each other? A nothingness more essential than the Nothingness itself, the emptiness of the in-between, an interval that is ever deepened and, as it deepens, swells up, the nothing as work and movernent!(M.Blanchot)
“All my life I have grown up between the masters.” According to Rabbi Nahman, this maxim means: I have grown up “between” (beyn}, that is to say, in the space of nothingness, in the empty space that separates and joins the masters in the situation of Mahloket.
To maintain the paradoxical relationship at stake in the Mahloket, the question should not await the answer: “The answer is fatal for the question.” Through the question, things are taken and transformed into possibilities, uplifted “dramatically to their possibility, beyond being. ”
To answer would be to allow that which was reaching beyond to subside into being. The answer suppresses the “opening,” the richness of possibility; whereas the role of the question is to open up. The question “heralds a type of relationship characterized by opening and free movement. ”
Within the context of the hermeneutic problem, the question has of place and takes on the meaning of “calling into question.” that is to say, the an of interpreting and not of repeat- implies the fundamental suspending of our own prejudices.

uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud p. 86-87
The Book

Up to this point, we have hesitated to ascribe a capital letter to the word “book.” We can perhaps begin to do so, as we are starting to sense, more and more, what the Book is. This bursting of the Book into books (and perhaps into other Books) means that its “power of saying” (pouvoir dire) exceeds its actual “intention of saying” (vouloir dire, lit.: meaning to say). In his book L ‘Au-delà du verset (The verse’s beyond)-whose title is none other than a brillant translation of the fact that the lamed (in which all study, in its strongest sense, takes root) goes beyond the line of writing-Lévinas expresses the definition of the Book. The book is not defined by its theme, but by its structure: “the structure of the Book of books inasmuch as it allows exegesis, enjoying the privilege of containing more than it contains. …” “What is it that makes a book institute itself as the Book of books?
Why does a book become a Bible?” We could say that a Book is worthy of this name, worthy of the capital letter that can be ascribed to it, if its “power of saying goes beyond its intention of saying,” if it “contains more than it contains,” if “a surplus of meaning, perhaps inexhaustible, remains enclosed in the syntactical structures of its sentences, in its word groups, in its terms, phonemes, and letters, in all this materiality of the book, potentially forever meaning.” In the Book, “the meaning immobilized in the characters already starts tearing open the texture that holds it in.” In the propositions of the verses of the Book “a voice that is other resounds among us, a second tone covering or tearing apart the first.” In the Book, there is “another meaning that pierces the immediate meaning of the intention-of-saying.” The bursting open of the book of Bamidbar is the bursting of the “Iesser” that contains the “greater,” putting us en route for the experience of the thinking of Infinity. The “greater” within the “Iesser” that is revealed in the Book is the most eminent manner that Judaism has of living transcendence.
What is important to consider is not the extraordinary fact of the Infinite’s being able to reside in the finite, but the overflowing that is nothing more than the benediction (berakhah). The book is thus the scene of a paradox-or of a meeting; it receives the Infinite (Tsimtsum), but it immediately unveils its incapacity for this reception, showing that the Infinite will not allow itself to be encompassed, will not allow itself to be enclosed in a presence over which we would have an ascendancy. There is an overflowing, a breaking up (shevirah) of the Book into three books.
Interpretation is none other than the creation of a surplus of meaning that allows breaking up and transcendence. The paradox is the following: the Book is a Book when it is no longer a Book.

uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud p. 156

New Faces

Rabbi Eliezer said: If all the seas were made of ink, all the ponds planted with calamus reeds, if the sky and the earth were parchments, and if all men practiced the art of writing they would not exhaust the Torah I have learned, whereas the Torah itself is only diminished as much as the tip of a brush dipped into the sea.
Avot by Rabbi Nathan
The inexhaustability of meaning is made possible, first, by the very specifity of the Hebrew language. This specificity consists in a purely consonantal writing; the invisibility expresses a certain relationship with the visible in the way that absence refers to presence. The vowels are there in their absence: “this writing punctuated by absence” opens up to transcendence. Even the first text does not exist but has to be created; reading is in itself an act of creation. The Nirin veeyn Nirin is the continuous creation of reading, of successive readings. No reading should be identical to the preceding one. Each reading, each study, gives birth to “new faces.”
This idea allows us, in one way, to understand why the thinking of the “visible-invisible” is essentially structured around the carrying staves (badim). The latter should never be removed, in accordance with the verse “The staves shall be in the rings of the Ark: they shall not be taken from it (lo yasuru mimenu).” The interdiction of taking out the staves even when they are not in use confers on them a symbolic character. The journey of the Ark is never over; it is an infinite journey of meaning that we call the “dynamism of meaning.” The “dynamism of meaning” is the impossibility of exhausting the meaning of an idea, of a law, of a Mitzvah. It is above all, a supreme refusal of thematization.

uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud p. 204

The “There” and the Name

Never say that you have arrived; for, everywhere, you will be a traveler in transit.
Edmond Jabès

It is not without interest to ask oneself why the scene of transcendence, the scene of questioning, the sham, also means (in some respects) the Name. The two letters shin and mem, which make up the word sham, express both a place when it is punctuated by an a and the Name (or name) when it is punctuated by an e.
The Nirin veeyn Nirin is thought out from a particular space: that of the Kodesh / Kodesh -Kodashim; why?
The remarks that follow may help us to answer these two questions. The masters of the Cabala’ teach the relation of the “Name” and the place.” Through a play on figures and letters, these masters tell us that the Hekhal or Kodesh is a Name (is the Name); in the same way the Devir or Kodesh-Kodashim is a Name (is the Name). Yet a distinction has to be made between these two Names, for Ha-Shem (the Name) has two Names:
1.       The Name known as Shem-Havayah, usually translated by the Tetragram
2.       The Name known as Shem-Adnut, which can also be translated by the Tetragram since it has four letters
And yet only the first one receives this name. In fact, it is better not to translate them and to keep them in the form of the expressions Shem- Havayah and Shem-Adnut. The former, which is also called Shem Hameforash, the “Name explained,” is written as Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. The second one is written Aleph-Dalet-Nun-Yod.
The masters teach that the Shem-Havayah is the space of the Kodesh- Kodashim, whereas the Shem-Adnut is that of the Kodesh. The Shem-Havayah has a privilege “that consists in this strange condition for a name, which is never to be pronounced. The Shem-Adnut that, in turn, should never be pronounced in vain is the Name. The Name has a :Name!”
Emmanuel Levinas rightly remarks that “the name here has the value of a proper noun and so the revelation by the proper noun is not only a corollary of the oneness of being; it leads us further perhaps, beyond being. First, through the proper noun, it is the assertion of a relation which is irreducible to knowing that thematizes or defines, or synthesizes; it is to understand revelation as a modality which, paradoxically preserves the transcendence of that which reveals itself.”
The Nirin veeyn Nirin, expressed in a place that is a name, and in particular a proper noun, says precisely this particular form of transcendence that is revealed without being shown. The Nirin veeyn Nirin is this withdrawal that is contemporaneous with presence.
The duality of the Name-written and said-introduces a gap, a distance, separation (holiness), and alterity: an abyss between writing and reading. The Parokhet-text is the support of this abyss.
vertical line = Parokhet

The inexistence of the veil represents the suppression of the gap between the “said” and the “written,” between the Torah she-be-al peh and the Torah shebikhtav. The “here,” as the hither side of the beyound (owing to the veil), means that the Nirin veeyn Nirin is situated in the tension between the “said” and the “written.”
The “there” has its place in orality , in the commentary . This orality should be understood in its reference to a writing. The Shem Adnut is sense-less (in-sensé) without the Shem Havayah. All the problems of the relation of the Written Law to the Oral Law should be thought out in this light. Transcendence by the Nirin veeyn Nirin can and should be thought through only in the context of this problematic.
“The Text-Parokhet, writing punctuated by absence, outlines a son of modality of transcendence. The square letters are a precarious dwelling whence the revealed Name is already withdrawing. But this uncertain epiphany, on the verge of evanescence, is just the one that man alone can grasp. And that is why he is the essential moment of this transcendence and of its manifestation.” Let us note further that the Shem Havayah is also called Shem Mah (according to the numerical value of its letters when developed)! The Name that is written without being pronounced is the question of questions, the question par excellence and the foundation of all questions. The Nirin veeyn Nirin is transcendence because the Mah reflects the Mah.

uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud p. 209-211

II An Erotic Image

THE DETOUR via the refutation-hypotheses allows the Baraita to incorporate in the very structure of its saying the meaning of transcendence as presence-absence. But the interesting and specific contribution of the Baraita lies outside of the dialectic of advance and withdrawal. The nodal thought of the Baraita is the suggestion of the relationship between transcendence and the erotic:
They pressed forth and protruded in the veil and were visible as the two breasts of a woman.
After having slid in the direction of the veil, the staves appear in the Parokhet as two breasts of a woman. For a person situated in the Sham, the vision of the Nirin veeyn Nirin takes shape. The picture of the breasts does not resolve the contradiction of the visible and invisible; this image of the breasts that appear under the tunic is not the third term which suppresses the dialectical antinomy. Quite the contrary, the “image of the breasts” defines the tension that unites the terms “visible” and “invisible,” the tension existing in the relation of the “here” and the “beyond.” In short, the “image of the breasts” defines transcendence. In his commentary, Rashi underlines the fact that the breasts are visible “under a tunic.” The breasts are not bared but are visible behind the veil of the item of clothing. So the comparison is complete. It is not the form of the breasts that counts, but the form of the breasts hidden from the gaze by a veil. Modesty ? Not at all, on the contrary . . . The breasts beneath the veil present a nudity even more naked than that of naked breasts. Paradoxically, this nudity more naked than nudity itself is clothed-nudity under the veil. This nudity is called the erotic: “Is not the most erotic part of the body the part where the clothing gapes? It is intermittency that is erotic, that of the skin which sparkles between two items, between two edges. It is this very sparkling that seduces or else the staging of an appearing-disappearing.” The Nirin veeyn Nirin is the erotic. Transcendence is this movement in the direction of a “not- yet-being” that will never be; because, as we have said, the invisible never becomes stranded in the visible, without immediately disappearing, retreating. The suppression of the “not-yet” would not promote being; on the contrary, more than a decline, it would be a negation.
Transcendent Being, on the border of being and nonbeing, closer to non-being than to being, “withdraws into [its] future, beyond every possible promised to anticipation.”
The Nirin veeyn Nirin text and the Nirin veeyn Shekhinah is revealed as erotic, as a “not-yet-being” where the “not-yet” is never severed from being. To say that the essence of the Nirin veeyn Nirin is the erotic means that the tension which unites the “here” with the “beyond” is desire. But this erotic desire should be understood as metaphysical de- sire; metaphysical desire reaches toward the “not-yet-being” that will never be; it is thus an infinite desire that is never satisfied.
How could one resist… the desire to quote, in its entirety, a passage from Totality and Infinity entitled “Desire of the Invisible” on the basis of which the relation between the categories of the erotic and transcendence can be thought out:
Metaphysical desire desires beyond everything that can simply complete it. It is like goodness-the Desired does not fulfill it, but deepens it.
It is a generosity nourished by the Desired, and thus a relationship that is not the disappearance of distance, not a bringing together, or-to circum- scribe more closely the essence of generosity and of goodness-a relationship whose positivity comes from remoteness, from separation, for it nourishes itself, one might say, with its hunger. This remoteness is radical only if desire is not the possibility of anticipating the desirable, if it does not think it beforehand, if it goes toward it aimlessly, that is, as toward an absolute, unanticipatable alterity, as one goes forth unto death. Desire is absolute if the desiring being is mortal and the Desired invisible.
Invisibility does not denote an absence of relation; it implies relations with what is not given, of which there is no idea. Vision is an adequation of the idea with the thing, a comprehension that encompasses. Nonadequation does not denote a simple negation or an obscurity of the idea, but-beyond the light and the night, beyond the knowledge measuring beings-the inordinateness of Desire. Desire is desire for the absolutely other.
Besides the hunger one satisfies, the thirst one quenches, and the senses one allays, metaphysics desires the other beyond satisfactions, where no gesture by the body to diminish the aspiration is possible, where it is not possible to sketch out any known caress or invent any new caress. A desire without satisfaction that, precisely, understands [entend] the remoteness, the alterity, and the exteriority of the other. For Desire this alterity, nonadequate to the idea, has a meaning. It is understood as the alterity of the Other and of the Most-High. The very dimension of height is opened up by metaphysical De- sire. That this height is no longer the heavens but the invisible’ is the very elevation of height and its nobility. To die for the invisible-this is meta- physics. This does not mean that desire can dispense with acts. But these acts are neither consumption, nor caress, nor liturgy.
The “being-in-the-there” establishes a relation to the Other mediated by the Text and a relation to the Text mediated by the Other. This double relation is supported by a desire that can be described as erotic insofar as the alterity is not altered, is not impinged upon by any satisfaction, any possession; the Other is “foreign” and therefore free. The metaphysical relation as an erotic relation is liberty .
The relation to the Text is erotic because “being-in-the-there” accepts the Text as a manifestation of presence-absence. The “being-in-the- there” confronted with the Parokhet-text is Adam-Mah: a being in question and a being of the question. An interrogative being, he untiringly calls meaning into question. So we can say that his relation to the text is a “caress,” in the sense where “the caress consists in seizing upon nothing, in soliciting what ceaselessly escapes its form toward a future never future enough, in soliciting what slips away as though it were not yet. It searches, it forages. It is not an intentionality of disclosure but of search: a movement unto the invisible.”9 This calling into question of meaning is aimed at the nonappropriation of meaning-i.e., of a meaning-the refusal of thematization. In the relation to the text defined as erotic, the signifying {significance) is inexhaustible by virtue of the fact that “the essentially hidden throws itself toward the light, without becoming signification.” The infinity of signifying is at the limits of nonsignifying. The text, essentially violable, is inviolable: it is virgin.
The relation to the text is erotic because by its nonthematization, a consequence of the dynamics of meaning, the meaning that is discov- ered does not lose its mystery. The Parokhet-text has an erotic nudity- visible and invisible-that expresses the unutterable. The unutterable is revealed in such a way that its manifestation is its nonmanifestation. Its saying is silence. Erotic, the saying is equivocal. The equivocality of meaning goes beyond the possibility of several meanings. Here “the equivocal does not play between two meanings of speech, but between speech and the renouncement of speech.”
The image of the breasts has introduced the category of the erotic into the Nirin veeyn Nirin. However, in one way, all these develop- ments on the erotic character of the Text are already contained in the presence-absence dialectic. The commentary of the Baraita consists in defining the Nirin veeyn Nirin. But the image of the breasts is not simply a metaphor of presence-absence making a place for Eros within transcendence; it tells us-possibly in the first place-that the meta- physical event of Transcendence is accomplished in a relation with the Feminine, that the extreme closeness of feminine alterity is transcen- dence itself.

uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud.p. 220-220

III Eroticism and Transcendence

A Verse from the Song of Songs
Visible like the two breasts of a woman as it is said: “My beloved is a sachet of myrrh lying between my breasts.” Song 1:13
The Baraita calls on a verse from the Song of Songs. It is not surprising: “Of course, the Song of Songs has a mystical interpretation, but for informed-or uninformed-eyes, because the mysticism of the Song is not a mystification, it is an erotic text.” It is a love song, where the text is a woman’s body and the woman’s body unfolds in the text. The Song is a text-body, and the relationship that the reader has with it is as much a relationship with the text as a relationship to the body, to the female body. But the “body” of the song is difficult to catch. It is an incessant game of hide-and-seek; if there is contact, it is in the caress. The woman runs after her beloved without ever catching him. The “I opened… he had disappeared” of chapter 6 is a perfect expression of the relation that is in question in this text: a relation where that which is revealed immediately retreats. The Song of Songs is an erotic text that can appropriately “illustrate” the thinking of the Baraita. But it would be interesting to understand, now, why the author of the Baraita chose this verse: “My beloved is a sachet of myrrh, etc.” To comprehend the contribution of this verse, we must understand that “the image of the breasts” is above all a production of the verse, and not the reverse. In other words, it is not the “image of the breasts” that evokes the verse; the verse produces the image, and we shall see how the image is in the verse. The meaning of the image will be analyzed in its production from the verse, and not only from reality . One might say that the reality of the text is more real than the visual perception itself. The verse the Gemara refers to does not have the role of an illustration (as, in fact, is the case of all quotations), but of a commentary.
In an initial reading, we shall examine the perfume: “My beloved is a sachet of myrrh.” According to another verse of the Song of Songs, we can assert that the perfume represents the intangible, the impalpable. We read, in verse 5 of chapter 5 :
Then I rose up to open to my beloved; myrrh ran off my hands, light myrrh off my fingers, on to the handle of the lock.
Rashi comments, the light myrrh, literally the myrrh that passes or the subtle myrrh (mor over): the “perfume passes and disperses on all sides.” Evanescent is the beloved; an idea which confirms that of the following verse: “I opened. . . he had disappeared.” According to this explanation, the quotation appears rather as a repetition of the ideas of the Baraita. In fact, the commentary of the verse is not to be found in the notion of perfume. ” Maharsha ” will, in only two words, emphasize the essential aspect of the verse in its relation to the Baraita; Beyn Shadai, he says, refers to Shenei Badei, or the same letters that spell “between my breasts” (Beyn Shadat) also spell “two staves” (Shenei Badei). Beyn Shadai is spelled Beit-¥od-Nun Shin-Dalet-¥od. In the same way, Shenei Badei is spelled Shin-Nun-¥od Beit-Dalet-¥od.
Is this merely an allusion, a play on words in order to establish a connection between the “staves” and the “breasts”? This commentary does not exclude this idea. But, in following this approach, the allusion tells us nothing new; it only confirms the relation previously described. In fact, “Maharsha” invites us to understand that the important point in this verse lies in the word Shadai and leads us, in the same way, to examine the particular polysemic character of this word.
Shadai, read as “my breasts” in the verse of the Song, is immediately understood as Shadai, the ninth of the divine Names, according to the Zohar.. It is interesting to note that this verse from the Song is the only verse where “Shadai-breasts” is identical to “Shadai-Name.” The iden- tification of “Shadai-breasts” with “Shadai-Name” means that there is a mutual illuminating of the categories of the erotic and transcendence. The quotation from the Song becomes a commentary and loses its simple illustrative character, by the shifting from “Shadai-breasts” to “Shadai-Name.” This shifting is not irreversible, since the commentary lies in the double reading that can be made of Shadai, in the relation of eroticism and transcendence. Hence, it is in the analysis of the Name Shadai that the verse of the Song completes the information of the Ba- raita. We should add, before going ahead with the study of the Name Shadai-as one should do before any investigation of the divine Names -that for the Talmud “the Hebrew terms of the Bible that we translate as God or Deus or Theos are understood as proper nouns;…It is a consequence of monotheism where there is no divine species or generic word to identify it…To approach [God] through a proper noun is to assert a relation which is irreducible to a knowledge that thematizes, defines, or synthesizes it, and that, thereby, signifies the correlative of this knowledge as being, as finite, and as immanent. It is to understand revelation as a modality that, paradoxically, preserves the transcendence of that which is manifested and, consequently, as that which beyond the capacity of intuition and even of a concept. ” Moreover, as Levinas points out again, quoting Maimonides: “The word designating the divinity is precisely the word Shem, a generic word in relation to which all the different names of God are individuals.” The other terms that name God-besides the proper nouns which name him, for example: “ha-Kadosh-Barukh-Hu,” “Shekhina,” “Master of the World,” “King of the World,” etc. are terms that express relations and not the essence. The proper nouns themselves, such as the Name Shadai, name a mode of being or a beyond being rather than a quiddity.
We should now examine the specific meaning of the Name Shadai. Several explanations have been advanced on this subject; we shall retain the one that the Talmudic tractate Hagigah cites in the name of Resh Lakish:
Resh Lakish said: What does “I am EI-Shadai” mean? I am he who said the world: Enough!
Resh Lakish analyzes Shadai by breaking it up into two parts: She-dai, literally: “that-enough.” The shin takes one of its usual meanings, which is that of the relative pronoun; dai then adopts the form of the adverb “enough.” Shadai loses its status as proper noun to take on the form of a relative clause.
Resh Lakish comments the Name Shadai, I am he who said to the world Enough! This teaching backs up a thought of Rav Judah in the name of Rav: Rav Judah said in the name of Rav: when the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, the latter stretched out to infinity-like the threads of a loom that endlessly intertwined; then they stopped as it is said: “The pillars of the heavens tremble, they are struck with wonder when he threatens then Job 26:11).
The name Shadai thus expresses limitation. Limitation: the majority of Hasidic masters comment the Name Shadai in relation with the Tsimtsum. Rabbi Isaac of Berdichev writes:
El-Shadai moreh al ha-tsimtsum, al haremez deamrinan bigemara, El Shad, mi sheamar la-olam: dai!
Which means, the “Name El-Shadai should be understood in relation with (literally: designates) the Tsimtsum, according to the allusion (rimez) of the Gemara, El Shadai, he who said to the world: enough!”
Rabbi of Sokhotshov, the author of the Shem Mishmuel, wrote, even more radically:
Shadai hu shem ha-tsimtsum.
Which means, “Shadai is the Name of Tsimtsum.” We shall be coming back to this idea of Tsimtsum, but first we shall make a second remark. In the verse of Exodus14 where the Name Shadai appears, the latter is compared with a term expressing sight (Reiyah), which in turn contrasts it with the Tetragram-Name in relation with a term meaning knowledge (Yediyah). The verse says:
To Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, I appeared as El-Shadai, I did not make myself known to them by my Tetragram Name.
The Name Shadai: a Name of seeing, a Name that is given to be seen. It is a visible Name: the Name Shadai is the Name whose modality of revelation is Nirin veeyn Nirin.
Above, we evoked the relation between Shem Adnut/Shem Havayah and that of Kodesh/Kodesh-Kodashim. The Name Shadai would thus be the intermediary Name achieving the transition, the limit between the Name Havayah and the Name-Adnut. The Name Shadai “would be” the Parokhet. (In “Hasidic Hebrew,” we would say: ha-Parokhet hi mibelinat Shem Shadat). According to our preceding analyses, the Parokhet is the Text, Writing. The Name Shadai would then be the divine Name which expresses the Text, that is to say, not that which expresses the essence of Writing-Shadai is not Writing-but the mo- dality Writing uses to reveal itself. If Shadai is, on the one hand, “the Name of the Tsimtsum” and if, on the other hand, Shadai “is” the Parokhet-Text, we can say that the Text is Tsimtsum.
What does the proposition “the Text is Tsimtsum” mean? To answer this question, we have to know first what we mean by Tsimtsum. Tsimtsum: numerous definitions, numerous commentaries follow one after another, confront each other, or complement each other depending on the different schools, the different tendencies of the Cabala. Very simply, we can say that Tsimtsum is an idea of Cabalistic speculation developed by Rabbi Isaac Luria in his fundamental work, the Ets Hayim.
According to this author, Tsimtsum is the idea of the “original contraction” of the Divine that allowed the antinomy of the omnipresence( of God and the being of the creature outside of God to be solved. If God is the Totality, how can anything other than him exist? The notion of Tsimtsum answers this question, stating that “God contracted himself prior to the creation, to make a place, beside himself, for something other than himself “(We must insist, and repeat: Tsimtsum should never be understood in the context of a cosmology. The notion of Tsimtsum is ontological).
According to the author of the Kuntras Maamarim, the Tsimtsum means the fact of the “infinitive light” (Or habeli Gevul), not becoming finite, but unveiling itself as “finite and limited light.” Tsimtsum, in one way, appears as the transition from the Infinite to the finite, and hence the possibility for the Infinite to be perceived. This perception-finite- is almost a paradox in itself; how can Infinity be conceived in a finite way? Absolute Infinity is revealed to man in the unpronounceable Tetragram. Although unpronounceable, the Tetragram is unfaithful to Infinity , because “infinity is more concealed than any secret, and is not to be named by any name, not even the Tetragram, not even by a part of the smallest letter.”
The “infinite Light” contracts (hi metsamtsemet et atsmah); some authors speak of a “withdrawal,” others of “dimming.” The contraction of the Infinite leaves a trace, called Reshimu. All finite entities bear the trace of the Infinite. This trace is not a new creation; it exists within the Infinite. The Infinite, being infinite, also contains the possibility. of finiteness; this possibility is the trace. Tsimtsum is the revelation, in the finite, of the trace of the Infinite. The proposition “The text is Tsimtsum” is in fact a fundamental idea of the Cabala. The Ein-Sof, the divine Infinite, contracts into letters of the Torah in order to be revealed; the text of the Torah is the finite-Infinite. Each letter, each finite element, reveals the trace of the Infinite it contains. That is what the Cabalists mean in the expression “The Torah is the Name of God.”
The text-Parokhet is the limit-place where infinity borders on finiteness. So the Parokhet is the scene of transition, the door to infinity; the Parokhet-Shadai is limitation and revelation of infinity . Rabbi Isaac Luria points out that the Name Shadai has the particu1ar characteristic of containing another Name. The ne’elam, the hidden of the letters Shadai, spells the Name Tsevaot, by numerical identification; Shadai: Shin-Da-let-Yod. Each letter can be spelled out in turn: (Shin/Yod-Nun) (Dalet/Lamed-Tav) (Yod/Vav-Dalet). The numerical value of ne’elam-(Yod- Nun), (Lamed-Tav), (Vav-Dalet)-is 500, identical to the numerical value of the Name tsevaot.
The name Tsevaot indicates infinite multiplicity (the “classical” translation, “Lord of hosts,” does not mean anything at all). So to say Shadai is to understand, at the same time, Tsevaot. To say limitation (She-Dai) amounts to expressing nonlimitation, Infinity. The text- Parokhet is the “finite-infinity,” the “visible-invisible.”
We are now armed to grasp in depth the real meaning of the verse from the Song of Songs. Through the semantic duality of the word Shadai, the erotic vision of the breasts behind the veil is commented by an analysis of the finite-infinite relationship. The verse introduces the word Shadai, whereby it is no longer possible to think the erotic with out transcendence, and vice versa.

uit: M.A. Ouaknin, The Burnt Book. Reading the Talmud p. 221-228


uit: M.A.Ouaknin, de tien geboden

Wat is dan wel de betekenis van die raadselachtige naam die in het hart van het bestaan en het denken van de joden is geworteld? Zeker, het Tetragram komt van het werk woord ‘zijn’ . Vóór alles is het echter een woord van vier medeklinkers zonder klinkers. Zuiver beeld waarop niets te zien valt. Zuivere stilte, waarin niets te horen is, of het moest de stilte zelf zijn in het diepst van de taal, de basis van de taal. De Talmoedleraren leren ons dat bepaalde combinaties van de vier medeklinkers de tegenwoordige tijd, de verleden tijd en de toekomstige tijd aangeven, namelijk h-v-h (hoveh, tegenwoordige tijd), h-j-h (hajah, verleden tijd) en j-h-h (jihi-eh toekomende tijd). Het Tetragram is niet de naam van God, maar de opening naar de drie dimensies van de tijd. Zijn, dat is de tijd. We kunnen het Tetragram met ‘zijn’ vertalen, met ‘geweest zijn’ en met ‘zullen zijn’. Zo is het Tetragram dus in alle dimensies van de tijd en de geschiedenis gegrift. Het laat ons zien dat het nodig is heden, verleden en toekomst als het ware als gelijktijdig te beleven en tevens wijst het ons op de noodzaak een evenwicht te vinden tussen de drie dimensies van tijd, waarin bet menselijk leven zich afspeelt. Op deze wijze doet het Tetragram in zijn dimensie van oneindigbeid zijn intree in de geschiedenis.

–Aandringen op het belang van de mondelinge leer die de geschreven Leer onophoudelijk ontkracht en openbreekt, betekent aandringen op bet feit dat de mensen – en de joden in ieder geval – de verantwoordelijkheid – hebben om God het oneindige terug te geven. Om het niet vast te houden in een gesloten tekst. De naam van God kan niet door de geschreven Tora zelf, zonder het commentaar van de mondelinge Leer, worden uitgedrukt. Anders zou het een afgodennaam zijn. Het zou zelfs mogelijk kunnen zijn dat het de angst voor afgodendienst is, die ons ertoe brengt de ‘enige’ betekenis teniet te doen om veelvuldige, nieuwe betekenissen te vinden. De waakzaamheid om ons te verzetten tegen afgodendienst, verplicht ons de oneindigheid niet in het eindige op te sluiten. Niet alleen niet in een of ander wereldlijk voorwerp, maar ook niet in een woord. Wat meer is, die oneindige interpretatie hangt niet alleen van mij af, van mijn wil en mijn persoonlijke capaciteiten om de Leer uit te leggen. Men zou maar al te gauw vervallen in afgodendienst aan het eigen ik. En het zou uiteindelijk een bijzonder statische interpretatie zijn. Zoals we reeds zeiden, de Tora is geschreven om te worden doorgegeven, opdat het mannelijke element uit de bijbel wordt omgezet in het vrouwelijke van het commentaar. Om niet alleen de tekst ‘teniet te doen’, maar ook het ‘ik’ en het te doen omkeren naar een ander, naar het kind aan wie we de woorden doorgeven. We hebben te maken met een dynamische interpretatie die zonder ophouden verder door wordt gegeven. Een tekst uit de Zohar {het boek van de joodse mystiek) zegt dat de hele Tora de naam van God is. Maar als dat zo is, dan zou de Tora als naam logischerwijze niet meer mogen worden uitgesproken, want dat zou afgoderij zijn. Wat is dan de status van de Tora? Men moet altijd weer bedenken dat de oneindige God zich aan de mensen geeft in de eindigheid en de beperking van een tekst. En dat is de openbaring. Maar als God het accepteert om een eindig wezen in een tekst te worden, wil dat dan zeggen dat Hij Zichzelf verandert in een afgod? Ik kan een risico nemen en pedagogisch de naam van God uitspreken door er klinkers in te zetten en Hem zo op te sluiten, Hij, de Oneindige, in het eindige. Dat geldt evenzeer voor de tekst van de Tora. Ik kan hem als afgesloten beschouwen, als in zichzelf volmaakt en voorwenden hem helemaal te kennen. Maar door zo te doen, door volledigheid te pretenderen, ben ik en afgodendienaar geworden. Als ik de Tora wil becommentariëren, moet ik haar beschouwen als een tekst die tot in alle eeuwigheid open ligt. Binnen de mondelinge leer moet ik mij zo op mijn gemak voelen dat ik na elk geschreven woord altijd een ander en nog weer een ander woord weet te vinden na het laatste woord en zo verder tot in de oneindigheid. De Tora kan niet worden ‘afgerond’ door de woorden waarin ze is geformuleerd. Dat zou betekenen dat het er bij blijft, dat ze slechts een gefixeerde, geschreven leer is.

–Het is de dialectiek van de beide leren, mondeling en schriftelijk, die het jodendom tot zo’n vruchtbare traditie maakt. Het mondelinge commentaar alleen heeft echter geen enkele betekenis. Het dreigt iedere basis te verliezen, als het de geschreven Tora vergeet, want juist aan die geschreven leer ontleent het zijn hele impuls. Door de ruimte en de afstand in tijd die tussen de geschreven en de mondelinge Tora bestaan, en door de pauzes waarin de uitleg of – om een geleerd woord te gebruiken – de hermeneutiek plaats vindt, ontplooit bet jodendom zich in de loop van de geschiedenis en ontwikkelt het tegelijkertijd zelf een geschiedenis. Analoog aan de beroemde uitspraak van de zeventiende-eeuwse Franse filosoof Descartes, ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ – ‘ik denk, dus ik ben’, een uitspraak die de hele Westerse filosofie van richting heeft doen veranderen – zou men kunnen zeggen dat een jood die het woord ‘Ik ben’ (het Tetragram) heeft gehoord, zegt: ‘Ik interpreteer, dus ik ben. ‘ Volgens de Talmoed heeft Mozes niet de inhoud maar de verschillende sleutels voor de uitleg van de Tora op de Sinaï ontvangen. Deze sleutels maken dat het commentaar zich in de loop der eeuwen eindeloos kon ontwikkelen. Een beroemd verhaal vertelt dat Mozes in een droom luistert naar Rabbi Akiwa die een commentaar op de Tora geeft. Mozes begrijpt geen woord van zijn uitleg. Rabbi Akiwa leefde veertien eeuwen ná Mozes. De mondelinge leer die Mozes heeft doorgegeven bevat net de definitieve uitleg van de inhoud, maar de regels daarvoor. We zouden hiertegen een paradoxaal idee kunnen inbrengen. De openheid van de Tora is grenzeloos, het commentaar kent geen einde, de overdracht gaat van vader op zoon, maar dit alles heeft plaats binnen een gesloten circuit. Het blijft alles beperkt tot de joodse gemeenschap. Het risico is dat men in een rondje blijft draaien, binnen de eigen gelederen. Zou het niet nodig zijn om, wil men werkelijk in een beweging van nimmer eindigende, alles omvattende transcendentie staan, de grenzen van de joodse gemeenschap te doorbreken en deze te overschrijden om naar andere gemeenschappen te gaan? Als ik daarop met ‘ja’ antwoord – en dat doe ik – word ik dan niet onmiddellijk geconfronteerd met de roeping van het joodse volk een ‘uitverkoren volk’ te zijn? Uitverkoren, misschien, maar dan toch niet zonder te zeggen waartoe. Mijns inziens kan de reden alleen maar zijn dat wij de verantwoordelijkheid hebben om dit gegeven van de oneindigheid van de Tora aan alle andere mensen door te geven.
Daarbij komt dat de Toratekst onze redenering op dit punt wel degelijk ondersteunt. In de bijbel zoals wij die vandaag de dag kennen, zijn de boeken onderverdeeld in hoofdstukken die op hun beurt weer in verzen zijn verdeeld. De Hebreeuwse traditie werkt daarentegen met tekstgroepen, sidrot (enkelvoud sidra). Deze tekstgedeelten worden aangegeven door een naam die aangeeft wat de inhoud van ieder gedeelte is. In welke sidra staan de Tien Geboden? In een gedeelte dat de naam van een persoon draagt, zoals bijvoorbeeld de sidra ‘Noach’, iets wat niet vaak voorkomt. Welnu, de sidra van de Tien Geboden heet Jithro, naar de priester van Midian. En ook al heeft hij zijn dochter Tsipora aan Mozes tot vrouw gegeven, hij maakt geen deel uit van het joodse volk. Maar waarom, zo vragen de commentatoren van de Tora zich af, zijn de Tien Geboden dan juist neergelegd in een sidra die de naam van een afgodendienaar draagt? Het antwoord laat zich raden. Omdat deze woorden zich niet alleen tot de Joden richten, maar tot de mensheid in haar geheel.

– Het woord ethiek zijn we al bij herhaling tegengekomen. Het wordt gewoonlijk verbonden met moraal, met goede en rechtvaardige daden, met het goede dat de mens dient te doen, met de goede besluiten die moeten worden genomen. Zoals we opnieuw zullen zeggen bij het derde gebod, in de betekenis waarin we het woord ethiek hier gebruiken gaat het vóór alles om een houding, een beweging, om het zoeken en het doorbreken, het gaat om een ‘levensdynamiek’.
Het eerste gebod – trouwens niet alleen het eerste – voert een ethiek van het woord in, namelijk de weigering voor eens en voor altijd om het geïnstitutionaliseerde woord, het woord dat door gewoonte betekenisloos is geworden, een dood woord dat de gevangene van een slijtageproces is geworden, te accepteren. De Tien Woorden zijn vijftig dagen na de uittocht uit Egypte uitgesproken. Ze zijn als een soort bevrijding van het onderdanige ‘slavenwoord’. We moeten zelfs het idee dat ze in steen gegraveerd zijn, loslaten.
De Talmoed zegt: ‘Lees niet charoet: gegraveerd, maar cheroet: vrijheid.’ Als we over het Tetragram nadenken, iets waartoe het eerste gebod ons aanzet, dan gaat onze gedachte in dezelfde richting. Met vier medeklinkers zonder klinkers, een woord dat niet uitspreekbaar is, nodigt het Tetragram uit om opnieuw het woord uit te vinden, uit te vinden vanuit de stilte. Het benadrukt dat het verband tussen medeklinkers en klinkers niet van zelf spreekt, evenals het verband tussen wat is geschreven en wat mondeling wordt doorgegeven. En precies zo geldt dat de geschreven tekst niet een ‘testament’ is dat in zijn geheel bewaard en voorzichtig in een la moet worden opgeborgen. Hij is er niet om onze leemte op te vullen. Integendeel, de tekst introduceert ruimte in onze volheid, leegte en afstand, hij stelt ons een vraag. En dat wat een tekst kan zeggen gaat – altijd verder dan wat hij wil zeggen. Het woord van bevrijding dat door het eerste gebod wordt aangegeven, is een woord dat met gelach en met spel te maken heeft. Het verzet zich tegen de cliché’ s en de slogans die we in de wereld van de publiciteit en de politiek tegenkomen. Het staat ook ver af van de gevestigde beginselen van de filosofie. Het verzet zich tegen het idee dat ‘wij met z’n allen hetzelfde moeten zeggen’. Daarom leren de Talmoedleraren ons dat er vóór iedere les verhalen en grappen verteld moeten worden om zo de geest te openen en hem te bevrijden van ernst en conformisme. In sommige opzichten zou men kunnen zeggen dat geen enkele trouwe lezing van de tekst werkelijk belangrijk is en geen enkele belangrijke lezing werkelijk trouw.

–Maar het eerste gebod betekent niet slechts vernieuwing wat het woord betreft. Het nodigt ook uit tot vernieuwing van handelen, namelijk om nieuwe levensvormen te vinden. De mens die de geboden hoort, is weggegaan uit de slavernij van Egypte, en dat is niet om ergens anders slaaf te zijn. Zijn God is de God van de bevrijding. De uitleg van de tekst is dus niet alleen een intellectuele handeling, een poging om de betekenis ervan te doorgronden. Het is ook en misschien nog wel meer een levenshouding, een levenservaring, een werkelijke vernieuwing van zichzelf. Vrijheid betekent niet de een of andere waarheid omtrent zichzelf ontdekken of op de een of andere manier waarachtig zijn, of wat al niet meer… Het is veeleer een voortdurend streven naar onafhankelijkheid met betrekking tot al datgene wat de mens belet zichzelf te worden. Het is het risico nemen zichzelf te worden. Ieder mens moet uiteindelijk de redder van de wereld, ja van God zelf worden. Iedereen heeft verantwoordelijkheid met betrekking tot de oneindigheid. Iedereen draagt vonken van heiligheid in zich, een deel van de goddelijke geest. Welnu, de vonken van een ieder zijn uniek en dus is ieder mens zelf uniek. Als enig en onvervangbaar exemplaar is hij dus verplicht om zelf zijn eigen weg te vinden, zijn eigen vonken te ontdekken. Dat geldt op ieder gebied, dat van de studie en dat van het dagelijks leven. Het gaat erom dat wij leren iedere keer opnieuw met een nieuwe blik naar de wereld te kijken, zodat de meest eenvoudige en onbetekenende gebaren glans krijgen en belangrijk worden, zodat het leven vruchtbaarder wordt en intenser kan worden genoten. Het betekent uiteindelijk dat we het huidige leven moeten leven vanuit de idee van de verlossing. Transcendentie, Oneindigheid, de Eeuwige vormen niet een soort achterland, nee, ze komen naar boven in deze wereld en ze kunnen daarin schitteren met al hun vonken, in al hun glans. Geen enkele dag is dan een herhaling van de vorige. Rabbi Nachman van Bratslav, een groot chassidisch meester uit de negentiende eeuw, zei het op zijn manier: ‘Het is verboden om oud te zijn!’

-‘Wij leven onder Het dak van de taal’, zegt Paul Celan, de in Polen geboren, in Het Duits schrijvende dichter. Het ‘plafond van de woorden’ stelt ons gerust. Het is als een dak boven ons hoofd dat ons zekerheid geeft en ons vertrouwd is. We hebben met de woorden een geruststellende vertrouwdheid zolang ze niet bewegen, niet aan zichzelf ontvluchten. Maar dat brengt het risico met zich mee dat iedere uitwijking naar het onverwachte of het ‘ongehoorde’ , dus iedere mogelijke vlucht naar wat niet vertrouwd is, wordt verhinderd. De Kabbala leert ons juist dat we de woorden van hun dak moeten ontdoen, als het ware als dakpannen een voor een, lettergreep voor lettergreep weghalen en zo het creatieve lezen teweegbrengen: lezen dat de stukken eraf vliegen.
Om het eerste en het tweede gebod te kunnen ontvangen, is het een eerste vereiste de vragen die worden gesteld door de woorden ‘Ik ben Adonai, JHWH’ goed te verstaan, om het ware woord te zoeken, het woord dat komende is, het woord dat nog niet onder het gebruikelijke dak van de taal woont, het woord dat deel uitmaakt van de transcendentie. We moeten de woorden dus lettergreep voor lettergreep uit elkaar halen om de strijd tegen het dagelijks gebruik, tegen de slijtage ervan, aan te binden om hun schitterende inhoud, de glans van het ‘hierna’ en het ‘hierboven’, vrij te maken. Wij zeiden het al eerder, het woord Chorev, de andere naam voor Sinaï, betekent vernietiging.

-De tekst begrijpen hangt niet alleen af van mijn persoonlijke kwaliteiten, van mijn speciale mogelijkheden om uit te leggen. We zouden dan al gauw in nieuwe vorm van afgoderij vervallen, die van het ‘ik’. De Tora is geschreven om te worden doorgegeven, opdat het mannelijk karakter van de bijbel vruchtbaar wordt in en door het vrouwelijke van het commentaar. En ook om niet alleen de tekst maar ook het ‘ik’ te breken en aan de anderen aan te bieden, aan de kinderen, aan de leerlingen, aan allen die bereid zijn een nieuwe ervaring te beleven. Wat de lezer van de Talmoed en de Midrasj ai meteen vanaf het eerste moment treft, is het belang van de dialoog bij het in gang zetten van het denkproces. Het komt slechts zelden voor dat een onderwerp niet controversieel is. Als een leraar een bepaalde uitleg voorstelt, gebeurt het heel vaak dat hij wordt tegengesproken en aan het twijfelen, ja zelfs van zijn stuk wordt gebracht door zijn gesprekspartner. De dialoog, machloket in het Hebreeuws, is van essentieel belang. Er wordt duidelijk door uitgedrukt dat er geen sprake kan zijn van een afgesloten tekst, van de eens en voor altijd gegeven waarheid.

– Wat dit betreft zou men vanuit een ander gezichtspunt, dat verwant is met de christelijke traditie, maar dat zich daarvan tegelijkertijd op essentiële wijze onderscheidt, de veelvuldigheid van commentaren en interpretaties naar voren kunnen brengen. Het gaat om de idee van de incarnatie. Dit idee is voor de joden minder ongewoon dan men over bet algemeen denkt. In beide tradities verschijnt God in de geschiedenis, de oneindigheid verschijnt in het eindige. Voor de christenen wordt God mens, bet Woord wordt vlees, bet is een incarnatie in het vlees. Voor de joden wordt God tekst. Hij manifesteert zich in een tekst en zijn begrenzingen. Een kabbalistische tekst zegt: ‘God en de tekst van de Tora zijn slechts een en dezelfde.’ De Tora is dus niet een boek met gegevens omtrent God, zij heeft het niet alleen over God, maar in haar manifesteert het goddelijke zich. Tegelijkertijd echter is het voor de leraren van de joodse traditie onmogelijk de tekst gewoon maar te nemen zoals zij is, hem om zo te zeggen in hun zak te steken en dan te doen geloven dat men de Oneindige in bezit heeft, dat men Hem beheerst. Als de aansporing ‘Je zult geen ander god hebben buiten Mij’, zo wordt begrepen, namelijk als een bezit, dan bevinden we ons opnieuw op het terrein van de afgodendienst. Het is de verantwoordelijkheid van de mens om aan de Oneindige Diens staat van oneindigheid terug te geven en te weigeren Hem te nemen zoals Hij is, definitief vastgelegd in Zijn tekst. We moeten de tekst aanpakken met uitbundig enthousiasme en grenzeloze nieuwsgierigheid, hem fijnmaken, hem kneden, hem in alle richtingen draaien om er betekenis aan te geven tot in het oneindige.

-Deze dynamiek in de bestudering van de Tora betekent ook dat de mensen verantwoordelijk , zijn voor wie God is. God zal werkelijk God zijn, of niet, al naar gelang de mensen Hem wel of niet God laten zijn of maken dat Hij God is. De aansporing om zich aan de studie te wijden, maakt het mogelijk voor de Oneindige lijn staat van oneindigheid te bewaren, terwijl Hij toch in een menselijke tekst is belichaamd, een tekst die per definitie beperkt en af is. Als de incarnatie voor de christenen een afgesloten zaak blijft, gefixeerd op de figuur van de Christus – als Jezus de zoon is en als zodanig wordt vereerd en aanbeden -, is dat voor het jodendom een verheven vorm van afgodendienst. Maar als de figuur van Christus om zo te zeggen fungeert als springplank en naar de Oneindige verwijst, dan ontsnappen de christenen daardoor eveneens aan de afgodendienst. In het boek L’Idole et la distance (Het idool en de afstand) van de Franse filosoof Jean-Luc Marion kan men duidelijk zien dat zij (de christenen) zich van dit probleem bewust zijn. Volgens deze auteur trekt het idool – het afgodsbeeld – de blik aan en houdt hem vast, terwijl de icoon – het heiligenbeeld – de blik verder stuurt, aan zich voorbij, fungerend als springplank om de gedachten te richten op de Oneindige. Marion beveelt de christenen eveneens aan de blik op de icoon van Christus te richten. In analogie hiermee zou je kunnen zeggen dat ook de joden het risico lopen de tekst te fixeren als een dogma, als een beeld dat de blik fascineert.
Wat hier speelt, is uiteindelijk onze vrijheid. De heilige taal is er voor de Kabbala niet alleen om de wereld te verwoorden, maar om haar te creëren. Doordat zij ons toestaat, of liever van ons eist met de woorden te spelen, geeft zij mij de vrijheid om mijn eigen vrijheid te creëren en de wereld te openen naar die vrijheid zonder einde.
Wat is de Kabbala voor het jodendom? Het is een taal van beweging voor een mens in beweging. En zo moet het tweede gebod worden begrepen: ‘Je zult geen ander god hebben buiten Mij.’ ‘De andere God’ zou bijvoorbeeld het idool zijn waarop de blik blijft rusten, het voorwerp dat de mens conserveert zoals hij het heeft gekregen, de tekst die men niet waagt te interpreteren. Maar, kunnen we tegenwerpen, er zijn in de tekst toch objectieve vaste punten. Zo zijn er bijvoorbeeld tien geboden en geen twaalf of vijftien. Er zijn 613 mitswot – voorschriften. Welnu, dat is nu juist niet het geval. Als wij menen dat er tien uitspraken zijn en als wij onze wereld volgens die tien uitspraken gaan inrichten, dan zegt de Talmoed ons: pas op! De tien woorden leiden al naar 613 mitswot die zich op zichzelf weer omzetten in zeshonderdduizend interpretaties die zich op hun beurt weer zullen vermenigvuldigen tot in het oneindige…

M.A. Ouaknin, geciteerd uit: de tien geboden

Mysteries of the alphabet – M.A. Ouaknin

In the beginning, God created the alphabet! Only then were heaven and earth created.
“Twenty-two letters did he engrave and carve, he weighed them and moved them around into different combinations. Through them, he created the soul of every living being and the soul of every word. …Twenty-two basic letters, fixed upon a wheel consisting of 231 gateways. And the wheel rolls forwards and backwards … How will he weigh them and make them move ?
The aleph was associated with all the other letters and all the other letters were associated with the aleph. The beth was associated with all the other letters and all the other letters were associated with the beth. And the wheel tums, again and again. …The whole of creation and all of the words emerged from this single name ‘The Alphabet’!”
The Book of Creation or Sefer Yetsira
Twenty-two basic letters that tumed into the twenty-six letters of the alphabet of western European scripts. Twenty-six letters of ancient lineage, the origins of which date back many thousands of years, a lineage transmitted from generation to generation quite unconsciously, which even today lies buried deep beneath the layers of our cultural unconscious.
M.A. Ouaknin, Mysteries of the Alphabet

The Principle of Archeography
Archeography is the invented word we suggest to designate the analysis and interpretation of words based not only on their etymological roots but also on the original graphic form of the letters of the alphabet, as it was first encountered in proto-Sinaitic script,whose discovery we described, and the origins and development of that first alphabet. The proto-Sinaitic alphabet pioneered the combination of image and letter, of pictogram and alphabetic sign. It can be read from the shape of the image or from the sound it has come to represent, which incorporates the spatial and pictorial dimension of the sign.
Archeography takes the opposite path to the development of writing and tracks it back from the letter to the image in order to find new meanings in words, meanings that enrich the purely etymological meaning or the meaning acquired through normal language.
Archeography does not reject etymology, it complements it through a dialogue and a dialectic that plays a game between “the eye and the ear,” in which the eye listens and the ear can see clearly what it is all about. Archeography is a sort of commentary on the enigma of the biblical verse: ” And all the people saw the voices ‘thunderings’ in the King James version’ (vekol-ha .am roim et ha-qolot, Exodus xx:18).
The vision of the voices, the understanding of a speech through vision, may lie behind this pictographic form embedded from time immemorial in each of the letters of the alphabet.



The Forbidden Image

The history of meaning is the history of forgetting the image, the history of a suppression of the visible. No doubt there are good reasons for this. In his book Moses and Monotheism Freud claimed that “the prohibition on making an image of God-the compulsion to worship a God whom one cannot see … meant that a sensory perception was given second place to what may be called an abstract idea-a triumph of intellectuality over sensuality.”
Through this extrapictorial image, “The new realm of intellectuality was opened up, in which ideas, memories and inferences became decisive in contrast to the lower psychical activity which had direct perceptions by the sense-organs as its content. This was unquestionably one of the most important stages on the path to hominization.”
For Freud, a departure from the visibility of the divine represented the dematerialization and deterritorialization of the sacred, the transition from the sacred-pagan to the holy. This movement eventually resulted in a transition from the stone-built place of worship (the Temple) to worship through the book, a transition from the cult to the cultural. The prohibition on graven images also applied to writing and the letters. The fact that images could not be depicted may well have been the mechanism that caused the alphabet to change so radica!ly from its pictographic form to the abstractions of the alphabetic form. It is not going too far to consider, as did L. Benveniste, that “writing was bom on Sinai.” On the basis of these considerations, it would appear that the abstract form of the letters of the alphabet have a superior status to that of the pictoria! form as we encountered it in proto-Sinaitic. However, we believe that it is important to take the trip back to the origina! image and that this step is required if we are to be able to link up with our most ancient and deeply buried memories. This is not a violation of the prohibition on representation, as long as we are in a dialectic mode and seeking the meaning and we do not fall into the trap of being stuck in the rut of “this means that and that alone” !

The Dialectic of “to Say” and of “Said”
The ban on the image is a ban on the static form of being. Being, the primal force, or aleph in our terms, pursues a dangerous course. Once spoken, being risks falling into the trap that said exercises over to say and risks becoming an oracle in which the said element becomes fixed. The immobile said becomes a visible sense, idea and idol. The force of to say at the heart of said must ,allways be maintained in order for the said to avoid becoming a theme.
Due to the risk of immobilization of the process of meanmg within said, one must go back from the said to the to say, to rediscover the dynamic power of meaning at the very heart of the state at which language has become static; the said must be unsaid. The said of words coagulates the fluency of time into a thema, lends it meaning, adopts a position in relation to something fixed in the present, represents it, and thus tears down the fallibility of time. “Words that have been said” become said already; the diachrony of time synchronizes into memorable time, and becomes the theme. The memory of the form that lives within the word is the difference between the word’s present and its past, its origin; memory is distance and the dynamic time at the heart of the said. Memory is a mode of temporality that illuminates and resonates for “the listening eye.”

The Archeographic Difference
What we call the archeographic difference is the differential work operating in the interaction between the original form and the current form of the letter. This is an archeological journey back that coincides with a perception of the future and the construction of the letter. “A letter always has several ages.”
The archeographic difference engraves the movement of meaning on the heart of the letter, which means that the meanings of the letter and the word are unstable and cannot manifest themselves in the clarity of a definitive presence.
Between the completely inaccessible original form, with the exception of a few archeological vestiges, and the present form, the letter has retained an element of the past and is already becoming imprinted with the mark of its relationship with the future element. The letter thus becomes a “trace”- neither present, nor past, nor future, but the dynamic movement between these three times, without any logica! progression between them. Archeography is a descent into the resonances it awakens in the reader of the original images.
More precisely, the image restores the to say; it ca!ls upon us to come out of ourselves and to move into the stirring experience offered to us by its commemorative dimension.

The Image Is Full of Enigmas …

The image is full of enigmas. It is plastic. It thus makes it possible to emerge from “our stiffness, that is to say the certainty of our world, the opinionated nature of our culture.” Our encounter with the image produces the possibility of not feeling ourselves enclosed in judgments that are too true, and which encourage us to other speech, knowing well that any encounter supposes a multiplicity of paths. Perhaps there is nothing more glorious in the word than the image, because it is its secret and its depth, its infinite reserve. As regards the image, speech is not yet alienated.
The image lends itself to writing, at the same time as it resists and remains foreign. “The image is an enigma, as soon as, through our indiscreet reading thereof, we make itemerge and become public by extracting from it the secret of its measurement. ln that moment, the enigma itself poses enigmas. It does not lose its richness, its mystery, its truth. On the contrary, by its air of questioning it solicits all of our ability to reply by enhancing the assurances of our culture, the interests of our sensitivity. … The image is essentially dual. Not only sign and signified, but figuring and unfigurable the form of the formless, ambiguous simplicity addressed to what-ever is double within us and remaining the duplication by which we are divided, we reassemble indefinitely. …The image trembles,it is the trembling of the image, the frisson of that which oscillates and vacillates. It constantly comes out of itself; that is because there is nothing where it should be itself, always outside itself and always already outside of this outside, at the same time as a simplicity which renders it simpler than any other language and is in the language of the source from which it ‘emerges,’ but this source is itself the power of ‘emerging,’ the renewal of outside inside (and through) writing.”
This admirable passage from Blanchot about the image lays the foundations of our archeographic approach. The image that we discover, that we stress, does not introduce a meaning, but the possibility of multiple meanings. The archeographic approach is a path leading from the already stated meaning to the image of the meaning, to the clarity of perception to the vacillation and trembling of the outlines of things and of being, which captures the vibration of meaning, the freedom, the libration. …
Archeography deciphers the palimpsest
The script beneath the script
The words which are coiled within the entrails of the words
The words which are sprayed by the wash of words.
New words
Bridge against oblivion. …
It gives the ear the opportunity of the unheard
It gives the eye the flexibility ofthe forbidden.
It gives the mouth the breath of the new
It gives the hand the drunkenness of a poem. …
Archeography and Bibliotherapy
In a previous book entitled Bibliothérapie: Lire c’est guérir (Bibliotherapy: reading is healing), we dealt with the role of reading and interpretation in the process of psychic training and maturity, as well as the effects of reading on our state of mind and our health. We showed how reading and interpretation unravel the knots of language, then the knots of the soul, obstacles to the flourishing of life and the deployment of the creative force. We stressed the existence of the force of the hook, whose effects are preventive and curative; the work of opening that consists in reopening the words in their multiple, expanded senses that make it possible for each individual to escape from confinement and lassitude to reinvent himself, to live and be reborn at each instant.
As part of this bibliotherapy or cure-through-the-book, we showed the fundamental relationship that exists between the book and the name. In fact, according to the Book of the Zohar, the “book” and the “name” have the same numeric value in Hebrew, that of 340.


In Hebrew, the word for “name” is shem, two Hebrew letters, shin-mem, which are rich in associations and meanings. The Hebrew root of the word shem is sham, which means “yonder.” To have a name, to bear a name, is to be born “beyond” oneself, to become part of a movement of transcendence, of moving beyond oneself, of projection. In this sense, to have a name is literally “to exist” in the etymologica! sense of “maintaining oneself outside,” outside any content one can give oneself.
At birth, each human has the potentia! of two dimensions, a .’being here” and a “being there.” The “being here” is the passive situation of birth in which I am here without ever having arrived here, expired in myself like a debt that I never incurred. This is the “here” of failure into which I find myself hurled, the heritage of my ancestors, of destiny. The opposite of “being here” is “being there,” that is the sham and the shem, the “NAME.” To be a man means to be at. .., to be there, sham; that is to say, to be within a project, in an opening to the future. The “over there” of the “name” makes it possible to escape the destiny of a life that has already been writen, already imprinted. Through the name as a project, life becomes an adventure. …Rabbi Nahman of Hratslav was quite right in saying: “Never ask the way from someone who knows it because then you cannot get lost.”
The art of bearing a name means that one then has the capacity to hear oneself, to be transported, to become a “metaphor” for oneself in the etymologica! sense of the word, which means “to carry beyond.” The name is not a sound capsule that covers an individual in order to enclose him in a definitive identity, but quite the opposite: the name in the human being is the set of forces that cause him to invent, in an infinite process of being and of “un-being,” of identification and of “de-identification,” of meaning and “un-meaning” of self. One can thus speak not of a persollal identity, but of dialectic of personal identity that oscillates between the sameness of self and the otherness of self. Bearing a name is bearing oneself toward one’s name. If the name is given at birth, that is because it has the task of constantly reminding us that we must be born and reborn an infinite number of times. The name one receives at birth is a formidable gift, that of bearing within oneself the memory of the very moment of such birth. The art of hearing a name is to feel this event of birth, which is always with us. The name is a “memorial of childhood,” part of the infant being bom, which is born within oneself like a gift, the gift of existence itself.
This brings to mind the poem by Louis-René des Forêts:
Tell yourself that we never cease to be born
But that the dead are those who have finished dying …
And again:
That the voice of the child is never silent within him, that it falls like a gift from heaven offering to dessicated words the outburst of his laughter, the salt of his tears, his all-powerful savagery .
Living is trying to inhabit one’s name, to hear the vibrations of the letters of which it consists, to see the liberty of signs in deleted memory, to feel the libration of images that have known the power of their origins and the hesitation of the Beginning. We therefore understand the relationship that the therapist may have with archeography as being a particularly effective tool in investigating the potential of an individual.
The archeography of the name makes it possible to analyze the existential potential and horizons of a human being. Obviously, it is not a case of revealing the truth or the secrets of an individual, but only of updating his internal dynamic, which exists or may exist on the basis of the forces of meaning at work in the memory of each of the letters of which his name consists. It should be noted and stressed that an archeographic analysis has a structural or rather a restructural vocation, one of dynamization and redynamization, but never of destructuring or of blocking the existential dynamic. Each name, the very act of bearing a name, is already an extremely positive and enriching event. Only the fact of not being able to be called by a name contains an element of trauma. In other words, each letter possesses one or two meanings that can never be negative.
Each letter is a structuring and positive function. There is no good or bad in letters; the alphabet does not belong to the world of morals. It is the relationship between the human being and the letter, the human being in the sense of the letter that mayor may not be assumed. The role of a therapist who uses archeography is to make the harmonics of a name resonate, as a practiced musician will be able to use all the techniques of his instrument in the best way possible. The five strings of the violin do not constitute an instant sonata. The skill of the artist and his long years of practice and experience must be added in order to be able to hear the miracle of music. Thus the existence of the letters of the alphabet, and even a knowledge of the equivalences between letters an the original images they represented, is not sufficient to produce and offer an interpretation.

M.A. Ouaknin, Mysteries of the Alphabet  pag. 352-361 ISBN 0789205211

Dieu et l’art de la pêche à la ligne – Marc Alain Ouaknin 
Editions Bayard, 2001.
Ecrire est toujours d’une extrème difficulté en raison de la finesse, de la subtilité, de la complexité des opérations à exécuter. Je me fais souvent l’effet d’un voyageur interrogeant vainement la nuit qui l’entoure, tant est faible la portée de la lanterne de route. Elle éclaire à peine le lieu où je me trouve. Il ne saurait en être autrement car le chemin de l’écriture ne se découvre qu’au fur et à mesure de la marche. Le salut de l’écrivain lui vient par les nuits d’orage. Tout à coup un éclair déchire la nuit et tout devient lumineux. Le chemin, le paysage,. L’oeuvre est alors offerte dans sa plénitude. Mais l’instant d’après, c’est de nouveau la nuit. L’espoir en plus.
Ces éclairs sur le chemin de l’écriture peuvent avoir différents visages. Une rencontre, une belle phrase, le sourire du passant, ou le parfum d’une fleur. Je donne ma préférence au jasmin et chèvrefeuille. p. 16-17

« Que Dieu existe ou pas, là n’est pas la question, avouait mon maître, lors d’une conférence, au scandale de son auditoire.
Si je crois que Dieu existe, cela ne prouve pas Son existence.
De ne pas y croire ne prouve nullement qu’il n’existe point.
Si nous avons pu imaginer Dieu, c’est que nous sommes capables de le concevoir et de nous abîmer dans notre invention.
Dieu reste au-delà, renforcé dans Son mystère et protégé par Son secret. »
Et il ajoutait : « Mystère et secret ne sont que distance vertigineuse d’un mot toléré à un vocable inacceptable. »
« Et si tout cela n’était que bavardage ? »
Je viens d’inscrire cette phrase dans mon titrier. Elle résume parfaitement toutes les questions futiles et inutiles de la théologie.
Que Dieu existe ou non, quelle importance ? S’est-on demandé si l’homme existe ? p. 52-53
La Sagesse est à la fois “question” et “hameçon”. N’est-ce pas extraordinaire ? (…) L’hameçon jeté dans l’eau ou “Sagesse” vient enseigner, dit mon maître, que le questionneur est représenté dans la position et l’état d’esprit du pêcheur qui, une fois sa ligne lancée, vit bien une double attente : que le poisson morde après s’être pris dans l’appât et que, une fois le poisson pris, il soit – sans que la ligne casse – ramené jusqu’à la rive, où le pêcheur pourra le sortir de l’eau pour découvrir à quelle espèce il appratient. S’il correspond au besoin et au goût de qui doit s’en nourrir ou en nourrir autrui. Pour cela, et jusqu’au dernier moment, le pêcheur devra faire preuve d’une complète maîtrise de soi, qui traduira sa maîtrise du temps. Il évitera tout geste impulsif qui briserait sa ligne, et laisserait sa prise se dégager avant de s’enfuir. C’est patiemment que le pêcheur ramènera jusqu’à lui le poisson pris, surtout si ce poisson est d’une certaine taille et qu’il imprime à la ligne des tensions violents.
- Tu vois le pêcheur ? me demanda-t-il.
Il me désigna de la main l’homme installé sur le quai, à quelques mètres du banc où nous étions installlés. Il ajouta : – Cet homme possède le secret de la sagesse ! p. 58-59

Cela me rappelle, dis-je, des témoignages de pêcheurs qui expriment ce sentiment de faire un avec la nature, de se fondre en elle ; l’impression de ne faire qu’un avec la terre sous leur pieds.
- c’est exactement cela ! Le pêcheur est entre ciel et terre, entre l’eau et l’air, il est le lieu de rencontre des éléments. Il devient lui-même le fil qu’il lance au-delà de la ligne verte des roseaux qui marquent les hauts-fonds près de la rive, et c’est lui-même qui se trouve à chaque fois projeté tout entier en ce point particulier, au beau milieu de la rivière, où un jeu d’ombres très spécial confère à l’eau une sorte de gravité et de sérieux. Il y a cette sensation physique d’etre entraîné au fil du courant, pris par la fascination qu’exerce sur le pêcheur l’objet de son attente, point vers lequel est tendue toute son énergie.
Ce que nous avons découvert sur le rapport entre le mot “Sagesse” en hébreux et l’hameçon, semble être une intuition partagée par de nombreuses cultures. Le pêcheur à la ligne serait une sorte de sage. Les Chinois l’ont bien compris, les Grecs aussi. Les textes que je viens de citer sont éloquents !
- La pêche est donc une philosophie ?
- Une Sagesse ! J’ai dit une Sagesse, ou une philosophie de la vie si tu préfères. La Sagesse a bien à voir avec la pensée, avec un savoir. Mais c’est un savoir très particulier, qu’aucune science n’expose, qu’aucune démonstration ne valide, qu’aucun laboratoire ne saurait tester ou attester, enfin, qu’aucun diplôme ne sanctionne. C’est qu’il s’agit non de théorie mais de pratique. Non de preuves, mais d’épreuves. Non d’expérimentations, mais d’exercices. Non de science, mais de vie…
– Je commençais à entrevoir où mon maître voulait en venir. Je dis :
– Adieu la preuve ontologique !
– Tu peux bien dire adieu à la preuve cosmologique !
– Et physico-théologique ?
– Aussi ! p. 64-65

C’est ainsi que je compris le secret des points d’interrogation en langue espagnole. Le premier signe au début de la phrase est effectivement un hameçon. Dans le sens adéquat pour la pêche. Le crochet étant tourné vers le bas. Il attend le poisson et pourra le prendre, le remonter à la surface, lettres devenant lisibles, et mots et phrases, dans le risque de mourir “en se fixant dans leur dernier cri d’amour”.
Le second point d’interrogation en fin de phrase est toujours un hameçon, mais inversé. Le poisson a été relâché. Les mots retournent au silence, les lettres poissons retournent à la vie. Ainsi, écrire, c’est le passage de la feuille blanche à la feuille blanche, effacement et attente de l’invisible. ” L’invisible, c’est l’écriture en attente”, avait-il dit, mais il avait immédiatement rajouté : “L’ écriture, c’est l’invisible en attente.”
Partir de rien pour retrouver le rien !
”Blanc sur blanc est le livre de Dieu en l’homme ; sable sur sable celui de l’homme en Dieu”, disait Reb Sarar. p. 91-92

Le texte implique la lecture et des lecteurs. La lecture juive des Ecritures, et ainsi la compréhension juive de Dieu, n’est pas une lecture fidéiste, répétition passive d’un texte qui existe enfermé en son sens unique une fois pour toute.
La lecture signifie d’emblée exégèse, interprétation, herméneutique ! Lecture qui est aussitôt étude, commentaire du commentaire qui renouvellent les lettres immuables et le souffle du Dieu vivant.
Dans le Talmud, il ne s’agit pas de mieux comprendre le texte ou de mieux comprendre Dieu : ce serait une façon de s’approprier Dieu, d’enfermer l’infini. Non, il s’agit d’interpréter le texte de telle sorte que la parole qu’il contient – et qui est unique – soit comprise de manière plurielle. Et c’est cette pluralité qui devient liberté, de Dieu et des hommes !
Dieu qui se fait Livre, qui “s’incarne” dans le Livre, doit être libéré pour qu’il ne soit pas une idole. Il faut donc en quelque sorte rendre au texte son statut d’infini, c’est-à-dire utiliser tous les moyens pour lui donner un sens infini. C’est ce que les talmudistes et les kabbalistes ont réussi à faire en mettant en oeuvre un ensemble de procédés herméneutiques, un système très ingénieux de règles d’interprétation…
Dieu existera ou n’existera pas comme être infini selon que les hommes en feront une idole figée ou un être vivant à travers les interprétations.
La vocation du Talmud – la loi orale des juifs – c’est de faire éclater la parole unique de la Révélation biblique, pour rendre et offrir à Dieu son statut d’infini…
Prendre le poisson et le relâcher ! p. 99-100