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    The “and” in the middle – Sh’mini

    andThe readings at this time of year are half-way through the Torah scroll.

    The rabbis calculated that the middle letter in the Torah is the large vav in gachon in this week’s sidra (Lev. 11:42).

    In round figures there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah, just as there were six hundred thousand Israelites who left Egypt – one letter for every Israelite, one Israelite for every letter.

    What is interesting is that the middle letter is vav, which means “and”. What joins the two halves of the Torah is vav; what joins two Israelites, two human beings, is “and”.

    The ideal is not two separate individuals called “You” and “Me”, but a link, a relationship, a partnership.

    Franz Rosenzweig, the German Jewish philosopher of the first half of the 20th century, said that thinkers tended to identify three realities – God, Man, World, but what really mattered was the “and” that created a relationship – God and Man, Man and the World.

    Compare this idea to people sitting in a train. They generally sit back in their own private cocoon. No-one knows who the other is. Each is a self. Only if a conversation commences is there an “and”.

    Only then does a community, however rudimentary, come into being.

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