Black and Beautiful?

Rabbi Yishmael says: bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) I (God) am their atonement. They are like the eshkroa tree, not black, not white, but in the middle. (Mishna Negaim 2:1)

This article grew out of conversations about what the Torah has to say about blackness dark colored skin. I noticed several things. One, each of the conversations or statements focused on one aspect, a snippet, of the whole picture. People would often quote one source and try to mold the Torah outlook around it. This is not to say that these people didn t grasp anything. For each snippet captures some aspect of the whole. Each snippet is associated with a kernel or spark of truth enlivening it, giving it existence and sustenance. Each piece has something. What I did find, however, is that people would often ignore certain teachings and statements of the Sages. In approaching the issue some would simply leave out the un-politically correct sources, the difficult ones, or the ones which would seem to cast blackness in a negative light. Instead they would quote and emphasize the sources that equate blackness with beauty, the sources which strongly imply that the ancient Israelites were really quite darkskinned, the prophetic sources which draw parallels between the Jewish people and the Kushim. On the other hand, others would ignore (or not even be aware of in the first place) sources which quite clearly indicate that the early Israelites were rather dark skinned and that seem to put blackness in a positive light. For me, such an approach was never really satisfactory. I was driven to understand what the real story is, the whole story. What is the sod of blackness , of different skin colors? In order to do this, as difficult as it may be, one must examine all the teachings of the Sages pertaining to the topic at hand. As it says in Psalms, the statutes of Hashem are true; they are correct together. When I tried to ignore the less complimentary sources, it s as if there was a dark
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I knew it must be possible. I myself did this for a long time. Significantly. And so people ignore it. It is certainly more convenient to ignore the account of Ham in the Ark and what happened afterwards. The statutes of Hashem are all true. I saw how the Mishnah itself clearly and emphatically declares that the Children of Israel are not white or black but in the middle. You must understand. although it must be understood in its proper place. 2 . a fragment. G-d forbid. and how Ham was blessed black like a crow. that attribute of Malchut (Kingship) itself is connected to the color black. I read about how Shem was blessed black and beautiful. weave them together into a tapestry? Could this be done? From my training in Kaballah. in relation to everything else. Each teaching is saying something. there must be an integrative. But. how to put them together. it would have been taboo to even raise the possibility that the account of Ham has anything to do which the story of Africans and black people. overall picture of which all the pieces are components. even if it hasn t been revealed. There are others. because of my education and conditioning. and the repercussions of this. correct together. when confronted by a certain difficult teaching to ignore it. And. the picture will not be complete. there are the sources that portray blackness as something beautiful. In certain conversations.apparition behind a curtain. what it means for the condition of humanity. Each teaching has a piece of the picture. pretend it doesn t exist and have any bearing on the story. But the seeker of truth must be willing to extract the kernel of truth and integrate it into the picture. This is the true meaning of these and those are the words of the Living G-d. beckoning me. I couldn t ignore any of the sources. This journey was made doubly difficult because there indeed exists fertile ground to warp the picture and use is as a justification for racism and all the cruelty associated with it. Because without all the puzzle pieces. I saw sources which seemed to go both ways. The point is. On the other hand. even if it hasn t been brought down to a conscious level. these sources were certainly difficult to deal with! It was much more convenient.

are a unifying force. to bring them together in the context of one partsuf . using language in a veiled way to allude to deep messages. utterly unknowable. All of created reality is structured according to HuG. A frame binds and defines the picture. So. associated with the feminine. we must embark on a journey into one of the most esoteric and yet all-embracing doctrines of the Kabbalah: the paradigm of hasadim and gevurot (called HuG for short). in and of themselves they know no divisions and distinctions. To begin making sense of these teachings. Thank G-d. literally giving it reality. In fact. I believe I ve found the hidden code. unified body. It is no exaggeration to say that this concept underlies the entire Kabbalistic system of the Ari and is the key to its application. yet structure comes from the gevurot. The deeper nature of all phenomena. these two elements. It is a basic axiom that the midrashic teachings of the Sages are multifaceted and multidimensional. Put another way.So this is exactly what I sought to do: to integrate all the pieces into one fabric. by their instrinsic nature. of course. but rather the very essence of what a frame is. 3 . a composite. They are everywhere. That is. The gevurot. it is this very quality of unity which makes the hasadim. one can perceive them manifesting everywhere. the Infinite Beyond . by their very nature they are unified. can be illuminated in the framework of these tools. I don t mean a physical frame. As far as we re concerned. They very often reveal a handbreadth and hide a mile . content comes from the hasadim. what are the hasadim and gevurot? In short. The hasadim. all aspects of manifest reality short of the Ein Sof. and once one becomes familiar with their principles. the system of hasadim and gevurot is a meta-system informing all of reality. It s a little like imagining a picture without a frame. associated with the masculine quality. When examining any reality. To some degree they parallel the yin and yang of eastern philosophy. by themselves. the complementary and yet opposite forces or tendencies of creation. are a constrictive force. Every phenomenon incorporates these two forces. and even if their tendency is to spread. conversely. the hasadim are an expansive force.

the master Kabbalist who more than anyone developed the doctrine of HuG: The explanation of the matter is that the lights of the hasadim and gevurot were ascribed by the Creator with unique qualities. what take them beyond themselves and allow them to be revealed. that is. mutually igniting each other and illuminating outwards. become excited. all motion or activity involves removal or separation. This process happens 4 . comes into being only through an arousal. whether on a mental or physical plane. a new reality is born . In the words of Rabbi Sholomo Elyashiv (called the Leshem). the constituent material of anything which is burnt comes apart and unravels We see that all activity and action. In other words. Furthermore. By themselves their very unity renders them inaccessible. in effect. Thus the hasadim in and of themselves are essentially inert and inoperative. for example.without a frame a picture doesn t exist at all. As such they are the aspects of water and fire the way of water is to cause to coagulate. We see. that flour coagulates with water in order to make dough. They need a mechanism beyond themselves to be revealed. On the other hand. the forces involved become active and aroused. and the quality of the gevurot is to split up and to separate . the way of fire is to spread apart. When this occurs. which is connected to gevurot. whether mental or physical. Through this exponential increase of activity. each operating distinctly from the other. to be made known. And all arousal involves motion. Thus the gevurot are the frame of the picture which give the picture reality as far as the viewer is concerned. This is actually the secret of why the account of Creation in the Torah uses the name Elohim. the gevurot are what draw out the hasadim. All manifestation and expression by definition requires gevurot. meaning that the forces involved go from a state of potential to one of greater self-realization. They are the reductive and constricting mechanism which takes the ineffable quality of the hasadim and allows them to be expressed. On the other hand. the quality of the hasadim is to connect and to self-unify. the forces involved.

affecting a transition from potential to actual and revealing hidden potential outwards. hesed by itself can not reveal itself because of its very inertness. The essential quality of hesed. on the other hand. What we derive from all this is that we can not perceive any action of any sort from pure hesed because in and of itself there is nothing to arouse it and cause it to go from a state of potential to a state of greater realization. we can distill some basic axioms regarding Chug. 1) Hasadim and gevurot underlie all of reality. This is because hesed s qualities are. Ultimately there must be an exquisite balance of both. the term simple (pashut) is inappropriate for gevura. since the quality of the gevurot is action and arousal.only through the quality of the gevurot. The quality of gevura is the opposite because it is constantly in a state of self-arousal. The gevurot work in a diametrically opposite way. That is to say. 3) Hasadim and gevurot are symbiotic. For this reason. is to unify. Hasadim are expansive. we find hesed described in terms of simplicity ( hesed pashut ) something we never find in relation to gevura. inactive. in the sources. As such the essence of the hasadim is utterly and completely hidden. and thus it is inert and sublimely still and concealed. This is why. constantly revealing all its aspects in all their distinctiveness. without the effect of gevura. gevura reveals its powers indeterminately to the greatest possible extent and is always in a state of frenzied activity. Hasadim without enough gevurot are inert. all its qualities are completely bound up in itself. inextricably bound up in themselves. and 5 . precluding any development of true distinctions and preventing any revelation outwards. With this. 2) Hasadim and gevurot are forces with opposite tendencies. Because of this. each individual quality expressing itself to the very utmost. whereas gevurot are constrictive. without the mitigating influence of hasadim. This is the reason why in the account of creation we find thirty two instances of the name Elokim (which is a manifestation of gevurot). Thus all actions are effected only by gevurot.

It is to make known. A reality based on pure hasadim could be said not to exist at all because there is no way for it to be known beyond itself. with just one without the other nothing at all can even begin to exist. That is their nature. this dual concealing-revealing aspect of the gevurot caves in upon itself. Following this principle to its extreme. For altogether opposite reasons. including themselves. the hasadim would just expand indeterminably. That is. it would have no frame or reference beyond itself for it to be known. The gevurot splinter the substance of the hasadim into recognizable chunks. are by their very nature volatile and active. But. 6 . draw it beyond itself. a world of pure gevurot would not get off the ground for the diametrically opposite reason. Their tendency is to grab an aspect of the content and draw it out to the maximum possible extent. to draw out. But what happens when you take the very content that is being revealed and strip it away? The answer is. you may find we have already mentioned it. the gevurot become the very essence of concealment Nothing. Taken to the extreme. That is. without bounds or borders. without a proper infusion of content. Remember. Let s expand on this theme. without gevurot. reality breaks down.gevurot without enough hasadim are so frenetically active that they consume everything. The gevurot. That is. when there exists one without enough of a mitigating presence of the other. they paradoxically reveal some aspect supplied by the hasadim to the greatest possible extent. Why is this? Because. And yet. essentially. by concealing. can be seen at all! Thus without enough hasadim. what is the goal of constricting? If you think about it for a moment. When we say that the Chug are symbiotic we are saying that really you can t have a pure manifestation of one without the other and obtain a viable. Their very unified essence would make them entirely ineffable. inaccessible. The goal or purpose of constricting is really to reveal. as opposed to the hasadim. On the other hand. an undistilled manifestation of just one of them precludes anything from existing at all. the gevurot essentially want to constrict. not even themselves. the ultimate function of a framework. reality breaks down. of structure. without enough glue provided by the hasadim. unknowable. sustainable reality.

when the gevurot are expressed by themselves. like a display of fireworks. the root of all gevurot is the self-contraction (tsimtsum) [of G-d s Infinite Light]. for even the reality and revelation of the gevurot ultimately comes from the light of hesed. when we said that the gevurot are perpetually in a state of action and arousal. they are called darkness. and. the gevurot splinter indefinitely. if there had been no illumination from the hasadim at all in the World of Tohu. burn themselves to oblivion. which is the most potent and sublime revelation of Divine Light imaginable . two seemingly contradictory properties of the gevurot. This is in effect what happened in the world of Tohu which preceded the account of creation. This is how the gevurot function when they are without hasadim at all they are utterly concealed and hidden. The reason for this stems from the power of gevurah. It s a little like firing up an engine without any fuel and thereby causing the whole thing to burn up.the gevurot in all their frenetic activity self-destruct. to the degree that it becomes concealed from itself and is thus called darkness. the [primordial kings ] would not have ruled at all and that reality would have remained completely concealed. on that level. The truth is that the essence and root of all existence is solely supplied by the light of hesed. when gevurah exists by itself. because of their relentlessly frantic nature. But. That is. It is the hasadim that keep the gevurot together. as it is written. a world is built on hesed . In the words of the Leshem: However. once the ray of the Infinite Light enters the cleared-out space. viable reality. The hasadim are really the glue of the gevurot. we were talking about the gevurot without the proper degree of hasadim to mitigate and sweeten them. with no cease to their frantic activity (as existed in the World of Tohu). without hasadim. But when it receives an illumination from hesed is erupts and shines without limit. This is why the Divine self-contraction. it is impossible to arrive at any coherent. the unbridled nature of the gevurot caused a cosmic disintegration . the original self-contraction is entirely unrevealed . Now. For the main essence of all of 7 . However. is called Supernal Brilliance. Earlier. namely. that is. it is the ultimate agents of concealment.

In this way.e. the reason for gevurah is that is distances itself from everything else and conceals itself. and gevurah. the light of hesed illuminates by virtue of the light of gevurah in all its beneficence. bringing it from a state of potential to actuality. Three: if they are properly balanced. 8 . because of its stillness and the inert nature of its qualities. it will expand without limit. existing in a state of undifferentiated unity. Thus there are three properties to the hasadim and gevurot. for it is gevurah which arouses the light of hesed to reveal its aspects. then through both together we can obtain a structured. it will vibrate and stir without limit. content) of existence comes from hesed. yet its manifestation. it should be emphasized that the reason for the concealment derived from hesed alone does not resemble that of gevurah alone. then if the prime ingredient is hesed. viable reality. orderly. the reason is that hesed is still and inert. order. both are concealed completely hesed. the revelation and transition of its hidden qualities from a state of potential to actuality comes from the light of gevurah. For hesed. If the prime ingredient is gevurah. united with its own essence. leading to a state of self-concealment. However. because of its tendency to distance itself. One: when they exist by themselves. its self-concealment brought about paradoxically through action! We see then that the reasons for the concealment of both (when they are not balanced by the other) are almost opposites. On the other hand. The essence (i. and viable existence. all its myriad qualities becoming aroused and bringing it from one state to another. yet its function. and does not reveal itself except through some sort of activity. Two: if each contains from the other a bare minimum. shining and splintering up into limitless sparks without any coherent order and viability. on the other hand. and framework in all its details is from the light of gevurah. thereby creating a complete.existence comes from the light of hesed.

perceiving the whole all at once. We already mentioned that every system includes HuG. which are then digested one after the other. In the left brain.So. and the middle brain. Now. If I spill a box of matches on the floor. to be more exact. is the human brain. It can be said that the right brain operates according to the logic of the hasadim and left brain according to that of the gevurot. Interestingly. and so on. what are these two vastly different modes of consciousness of the two sides of the brain? The right brain perceives things in their wholeness. I must count one. reality is compartmentalized and split up. and the middle brain not only acts as a conduit connecting the two but produces a language which incorporates the vocabulary and syntax of both. The paradigm for this. different modes of perception. The right brain has been said to be subjective. automatically. On the other hand. The left brain. in a flash of information. seamlessly. Every system can be viewed according to the principles of HuG. they don t act as filters for his right brain. that there are three matches there. certain forms of autism in effect paralyze mechanisms of the left brain. it focuses on parts. joins the two together. if I want to know how many there are I must approach the task linearly. To be sure. let s now return to the basic axioms of HuG and develop them further. So. Thus the right brain perceives reality intuitively. of course. He sees the pile of matches with right-brain consciousness. nonlinearly. meaning essentially that from the right brain s perspective there is no separation from the subject and object of 9 . wiring perception directly to the right brain. The left brain is therefore linear. But an autistic person may be able to glance at a much bigger pile and say. It is holistic.the corpus collosum. the hasadim manifest conceptually on the right side. How does he do this? Because certain aspects of his left brain are inert. each piece existing within a certain selfcontained frame of reference. the two brains right and left. I can see a pile of three matches and readily perceive. two. operate according to different languages. and the hasadim on the left of any given system. It perceives things sequentially. on the other hand. three. is rational and analytical. looking at the whole and not focusing on the parts. Really. fifty three. All linear thinking is essentially a left-brain process. the left brain breaks up the seamless reality of the right brain into snippets.

integrated unit. rather. hasadim and gevurot together daat. There are three aspects of the mind. True union. The two formed one seamless picture. In the Kaballah. Daat itself is both and means and product of this union. really the right brain and the right side the central column form one unified. it look her many long minutes to realize what the numbers on her credit card meant. as we just mentioned. and all existence is predicated upon their union and symbiosis. we should recognize the hasadim-gevurot dynamics as they manifest in the right and left brains. then. Although. is objective (or. which is the basis of reality. since there was no self-evident divider between the numbers in the foreground and the rest of the card in the background. She relates how right after her stroke.perception. for the simple reason that there would be no existence were they to exist by themselves. hochmah. operates under the premises of objectivity). and daat. which is comprised of hasadim and gevurot. The right brain is the source of hasadim in our perception. and the left brain the source of gevurot. is the link 10 . which is the correct combination of hasadim and gevurot. i What this implies is that we cannot access a pure consciousness of hochmah or binah. the right and left brains are called hochmah and binah respectively. It is the third aspect of the brain. In a most remarkable presentation of right brain as opposed to left brain consciousness. Harvard neuroscientist Jill ----. By now. as do the left brain and the left side of the central column. According to the Ari. the corpus collosum. correspond to the central column (corpus collosum). binah. and the context or mechanism separating one from the other and imbuing one with meaning in and of itself had been severely damanged. the creation of a viable reality is predicated upon daat. The left brain. But we must be more exact.described her experience when she had a massive brain hemorrhage which in effect shut off her left brain. not hasadim and gevurot. and it is the third one daat. and thus all consciousness really takes place in daat and involves some combination of HuG. which can be called our daat. on the other hand.

this means that the proper balance of hasadim and gevurot is fundamental. exemplifying the proper balance and synthesis of hasadim and gevurot. In this Mishnah. the Jewish people are praised for being in the middle. As we have seen. In the world of tikun (rectification). The new illumination (of shem M A). should we apply an absolute scale. but in the middle. hasadim correspond to whiteness and gevurot to blackness. It is also noteworthy that Rabbi Yishmael uses the somewhat unusual phrase: bnei Yisrael I am their kapara (atonement) . but rather a union of the two.between right and left through the middle they both share. which took place because a balance and syntheses of hasadim and gevurot occurred. that the medium tone defines the absolute scale. They are like the eshkroa tree. that is. or should we gauge it according to how it looks relative to the skin shade of the person afflicted? Rabbi Yishmael is saying that we should gauge it according to the medium skin tone characteristic of Bnei Yisrael. The vessels originally fell because of a preponderance of gevurot. these vessels were resurrected and formed part of a viable reality which was based on hasadim and gevurot coming together in harmony. as in Adam knew Hava (Eve). 11 . is the deeper level of the Mishnah which deals with blackness and whiteness : Rabbi Yishmael says: bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) I (God) am their atonement. which corresponds to hasadim. not white. The Mishnah here makes clear that the most praiseworthy quality is neither unmitigated blackness nor unmitigated whiteness. On a deeper level this seems to harken back to the Ari s doctrine of the shattering of the vessels and their subsequent rectification. see Vayikra-Leviticus 13). perhaps. In the language of sod (the deeper level of Torah). therefore they were unstable and volatile. Thus the Torah refers to relations between man and woman as daat. It is this symbiosis between hasadim and gevurot which. (Mishnah Negaim 2:1) The context of this passage is how to gauge whether or not a skin affliction is a bright enough shade of white to be tsaraat (a skin legion which renders the person impure. not black.

In fact. the one that flows to the east of Assyria. at least spanning several lands. The name of the third river is Hidekel. some of which included Africa. the Rashash (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) equates Eden with the equatorial region! [cite source] The last issue to touch upon is the story of Ham and Ham s son. It is also interesting to note that the equatorial belt retains the climate and plant-life which seems to be most reminiscent of the ancient garden of Eden. Also of note. perhaps. (Genesis 2:10-14) It seems clear that the environs of Eden the Torah speaks about is not a small expanse of land at all. conversely. The name of the second river is Gihon. the Midrashim. disorder. with their respective gifts. The name of the first is Pishon. Another interesting thing to note in relation to all this is that the verses seem to place the surroundings of the original Eden in Africa. as is the shoham stone. or. lifting them out of their fallen state and joining together with them to form the basis of a stable universe. living without clothes and not being ashamed (see Genesis 2:25). and gave them all 12 . Here also. where there is gold. perhaps Ethiopia). is the fact that there still exist tribes in the equatorial regions of South American and Africa who live in some ways in a kind of pseudo-Edenic state for instance. lack of viable existence) which ensued after the vessels fell. and G-d blessed them (Genesis 9:1). He blessed Shem and his sons to be black and beautiful. as it is said. are more nuanced than once might expect. the fuel for the union (Ma N) which brought forth the new illumination can be seen as atoning for the world of Tohu (chaos. taken as a whole within the context of the Torah s account. the bedolach is there. We find that: G-d blessed Noah and his sons. as if it is a kind of Eden like state fallen into the kelipot (realms of temporarily unredeemed reality). Thus the Torah speaks of the four rivers which flowed from Eden: A river flows from Eden to water the garden. which encircles the whole land of Kush (a land in Africa.atoned for the vessels. but rather a huge swath of land spanning the Middle East and Africa. and from there it split to become four head rivers. The gold of that land is good. that encircles the entire land of Havilah. and gave them the whole world. Or. and forth river is Prat (the Euphrates).

and gave them the coast. What we find here resonates elegantly with the hasadim-gevurot paradigm as well as the Mishnah cited earlier! Shem is in the middle. as is made clear by its opening phrase. these are the lands that he bequeathed them. [this is like] one who set up his coin mintage in the abode of the king. dark or very dark skin is presented in a less than complementary light. Ham and the dog both had relations in the ark.the livable areas. is talking about God blessing Noach and his sons! While perhaps the blackness of Shem is exemplified as being beautiful. He blessed Yefet and his sons to be [all of them] white and fair. Yet this is curious given the fact that the entire passage. rectified gevurot. (Pirke Rabbi Eliezer Chap. 13 . His blackness is beautiful because it represents the sweetened. it seems that the author of the Midrash saw very dark skin as something not as desirable as a somewhat ligher shade still within the parameters of what we would call dark skin (if we can even speak in these terms). some commentators on this passage (see Radal) try to distinguish the beautiful blackness of Shem with the blackness of Ham. representing the synthesis of hasadim and gevurot. The king said. the context of blessing doesn t make it very plausible that Ham and his sons are being called ugly here. Says the Midrash Rabba (Parasha 36): Rabbi Hiya bar Abba said. Ham came out black as coal and the dog has his relations in the open. Nevertheless. and gave them the wilderness and fields. even suggested that the correct version of the text should not be black as a crow (shechorim k orev) but rather black and ugly (shechorim keurim). I decree that his face become black as coal and he should be disqualified (yifasel) and his nature changed. He blessed Ham and his sons to be black like the raven. 24) To be sure. Rather. Similarly. therefore Ham came out black as coal (mefuham) and the dog has relations openly without shame. in the eyes of the sages who authored some Midrashim and Talmudic teachings. Rabbi Levi said.

The sages pick up on anomalies in the language to expound that not only will she conveive as before but that she will be blessed. the attribute or partsuf which is essentially formed by gevurot. is especially volatile on the left side. this sort of blackness is spoken about in exaggerated terms such as black as a raven or like coal . that if a woman is exonerated by the bitter waters she will conceive. such as what s found in tractate Sotah. black is the color which according to the Kabalah is associated with Malchut. in commenting on the Pirke Rabbi Eliezer quoted above. Perhaps it can be said that a deeper level of meaning behind the blackness of Ham and his sons we find in these Midrashic teachings is the saga of the perverted gevurot. We can picture the arena into which Adam and Hava were placed as a wound which had been sutured and healed to a large extent (ie. We also quoted from the Leshem earlier who explained the connection between gevurot and blackness. The handle that could be grabbed to open up the wound was the gevurot. the sins and failings of later generations had the effect of perverting and warping the gevutot. the main rupture was on the side of gevorut. Significantly. if they were dark-skinned. the shattering of the vessels and their tikun). but according to our analysis we need not be overly concerned with the historical veracity of these 14 . Thus as a result of Adam and Hava s sin. Subsequently. they will now be light-skinned. What we must round off our discussion with is the fact that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In other words. What will be here blessing? If her children before were born painfully.There are other such teachings. this kind of blackness is the gevurot getting trapped in the kelipot. and certainly most of the descendents of Ham are not that dark! Based on this he suggests amending the text. mentions that black as a raven is even more dark than a very dark color (black like heret) mentioned elsewhere (in tractate Nidah). [cite page] Earlier we elaborated on the system of HuG. and mutating them into the malevolent form of concentrated forces of judgement (dinim kashim) which would them have to run their due course. The Radal. they will be born easily. while incorporating both hasadim and gevuot. Yet the wound wasn t healed completely. and the possibility remained for the wound to be opened up along its original contours. Now. that of gevurot.

And perhaps the overall state of Africa in general is due to the fact that it is the physical manifestation of these gevurot. say. and not Ham. such as the sort of tribalism which impedes embarking on collective endeavors effectively. Significantly. is that of the gevurot. 15 . Many people have conjured up notions of the curse of Ham . Perhaps the great suffering which black people experienced was a cosmic process of lifting up fallen gevurot. Ancient Egypt was a most wealthy and technologically advanced civilization. one finds in the Torah that it was Ham s son Knaan who was cursed. Asia or India are primarilly characterisctics of gevurot. Such drastic descriptions of dark skin seem to imply blackness gone awry. Hod. hardly the product of what one would think of as a curse. similar to how the gevurot. suffice it to say here that according to the Kaballah. It comes as little surprise that Ham is associated with Yesod.Midrashim. It may be significant that those elements which have kept Africa from modernizing like. are carried beyond their proper borders. including their enslavement and travails in the countries they were taken to. sins of a sexual nature have a great capacity to pervert the gevurot. While speaking about the blemish of Yesod is beyond the scope of this article. we must ask ourselves what profound teachings they garb and at the same time express. which corresponds to the male sexual organ. when unmitigated by hasadim. and Yesod (of the Malchut of Nukva). However. the Ari correlated the three sons of Noah with Netzach. With all this introductory information we can perhaps glean a better understanding of the unique history of Africa and black people in general. Blackness carried beyond its proper borders. Perhaps a more correct and useful paradigm in understanding the history of African peoples. Paralleling this. Rather. we find that perhaps the greatest of the very ancient civilizations was a Hamitic civilization Egypt. Thus the curse itself is not the curse of Ham but the curse of Knaan. sometimes as a rationale for many great evils which have been perpetuated over the centuries.

in my opinion the clear simple meaning of the verse is black and beautiful. And then. and the second one the word shcharchoret . right afterwards: don t look at me. the sons of my mother have treated me with contempt (Song of Songs 1:5-6) Although some read the first verse as I am black yet beautiful . they were people who lived in a certain societal context and their teachings must also be examined in this light. and we should strive to reveal the deep messages of the sages parables and teachings and at the same time not be naïve.However. revise or falsify the historical record by fitting the sages into a kind of mold which transcends all historical context. The main goal is. The first verse uses the word shechora . It may yet be that the continent which seems the most dysfunctional will one day be the highest in revealing the Divine! A well know verse from the Song of Songs says. A final point to consider is that the sages. like the tents of Kedar. When we ignore the historical context and its influence. So. as many have done. we mustn t forget that the sages of the time of the Mishnah and 16 . that I am black (shcharchoret). and it would be most incongruous if the verse read I am black but nevertheless beautiful. after all. It is certainly true that their teaching garb deep messages and that one can speak of the sages endeavors as being inspired by ruach hakodesh (Divine inspiration). daughters of Yerushalim (Jerusalem). truth. The subject of the verse is her beauty. Nevertheless. The first verse clearly extols the maiden s beauty. were not immune to cultural influences of the time. like the curtains of Shlomo. comparing it to the tents of Kedar and the royal curtains of Shlomo. the vav before beautiful being understood as but . the very next verse says don t pay attention to my blackness. and yet uses a different word than the first verse. the second verse is saying. which is clearly related to shechora but means something else. for the sun has burnt me. for the sun has burnt me. we find that it is exactly the toughest gevurot which have the greatest potiential to reveal the Divine. or worse. The second verse is clearly saying something different than the first one. unlike what many people believe. Furthermore. That said. don t pay attention to my being shcharchoret . truth suffers. I am and black and beautiful.

the sages description of blackness in the agadeta (non-legalistic teachings) many have been colored by a cultural context in which blackness was not very commonplace and seen as something weird. They were people. and messages. wondrous creations (meshane habriot) could have been ordained for seeing a very dark skinned person.Talmud lived. but the unassailable fact remains that in the sages time and place. but rather that the overall category of "mumim" (blemishes disqualifying a kohen) includes both certain very defined conditions and also a general injunction to disqualify something considered very odd or unusual. black people were very rare. On the one hand. the sages included very dark skin in the attributes which disqualify a person from serving as a kohen. On the other hand. we must realize that the sages lived in a certain cultural context which certainly influenced the way they thought about and saw things. To join together these two aspects is 17 . would have said such a thing. is really the main purpose of most Midrashim not to relate a narration of events as they happened. and their teachings are meant to convey deep messages. as many people are wont to believe. Yet one many reasonably doubt whether Moses. But in our time and place. to a great extent. when black people are all over the place. In this case the Mishnaic statement need not be understood as a Halacha l Moshe miSinai (an unalterable law derived from Sinai) because they saw very dark skin as an oddity. in a cultural context of Greco-Roman supremacy. after all. One must always ask what profound message a particular Midrash is packaging . lessons. who drew up among very dark skinned people and was perhaps very dark skinned himself. one should question whether it is appropriate to say this beracha (blessing) when seeing a black person. On the one hand we know the sages were transmitting very profound truths. I believe. Thus we can understand how the blessing he who makes odd. It has been argued that the Greek ideal of light skin was limited to women [cite source]. we must realize that the sages were holy people possessing Divine inspiration (ruach hakodesh). Likewise. Similarly. This brings up a most important point of methodology in examining the teachings of the sages in general. And on the other hand they were people who were influenced by their cultural contexts. This. And so it behooves one to ask how a particular teaching may have been influenced by cultural factors.

i Actually. and thus the seat and trigger of the true mystical.an endeavor of great challenge. located in a small cave-like cavity tucked in the brain s hemispheres.i 18 . the supernal crown . the daat elyon which is concealed within hochmah and binah. more concealed aspect to daat which is contained in our pineal gland. but one which the intellectually mature and honest person cannot escape from. This gland is the true upper daat . there is a higher. transcendental experience. It is the link with keter.

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