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Listening For Dina

Created on Shabbat Vayishlach, in the energy of its “corresponding” Shir haShirim portion (2: 1-2) about rooting down and blossoming forth, this collage, “Listening for Dina”, arose from some deep Kabbalah which came out of some collaborative discussions with my chevruta partner.

No matter which way you look at it, there is nothing comfortable about the story of Dina, which is perhaps why there is so little focus on it compared with so much rich and juicy material in Vayishlach. For myself, I am especially aware of how little we know about Dina. Although we have a hint of her adventurous and open spirit, she remains voiceless, a passive object of men’s actions and judgements. To me, Dina’s significance is tied to her gender - Jacob’s women produce between them twelve sons, and one daughter. Although all the focus is on the twelve, Dina makes 13.

There is much in our tradition about 12 and 13. Twelve represents a completeness - 12 tribes (male of course!), 12 stones in the breastplate, 12 constellations, 12 months of the year, twelve otiot peshat (simple letters) which govern human faculties. Thirteen, on the other hand, is what we aspire to. The thirteen petalled rose of the covenant, the thirteen attributes of mercy, the extraordinary additional occasional 13th month, Adar Sheni. The heavens comprise the sun, the constellations, and the moon. The moon, which is often described as feminine, appears to wax and wane, to reveal and then conceal herself, but in fact the moon is always there waiting to be noticed when the conditions are right. Time is marked by the moon, women cycle by the moon. I imagine the moon as the 13th constellation, waiting to be restored to equal footing with the sun as the other great luminary. As for those 12 simple letters, they all can be refined to their essence, a 13th letter, the silent, empty, seemingly absent Aleph.

Collage elements and sources (counter clockwise from top right):

  • Rose petals, foliage, clock face - reference to the 13 petalled rose, the counting of finite time in 12s, Dina’s timeless beauty caught in the sharp thorns of neglect that have plagued her memory through the millennia.

  • Circle of permutations, houses, tribes, months and signs according to Ra'avad 5a, (cited in Aryeh Kaplan’s Sefer Yetzirah in Theory and Practice).

  • The twelve simple letters marking the boundaries of the cosmic cube (from Rabbi Jill Hammer’s Return to the Place, The Magic Meditation and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah) reworked to also show the place (the 13th point) where the Shekhinah rests as the Indwelling Presence (from Jewish Wisdom in the Numbers by Levene and Hartman). Levine & Hartman on 12 & 13....“The 6 sided cube interfaces 12 diagonals and has 12 edges. The inner point of a cube is considered the 7th point of spirituality that comes to unite the 6 directions which typify the physical world. The relationship between 6 & 7 has its parallel in the relationship between 12 & 13 where the extremities of the 12 edges of the cube are brought together by the 13th that is similarly classified as the spiritual centre. In the wilderness, the Shekhinah rested within the hallowed walls of the Mishkan. This was the national locus where the 12 Tribes of Israel were encamped as one around this 13th spiritual centre. Naturally, the number 13 features in its construction. Its architect was the 13 year old Betzalel and it was constructed using 13 donated materials”.

  • Shir HaShirim verses 2: 1 - 2, translated in English by Rabbi Shefa Gold who is exploring the equivalences and relativities between consecutive Torah portions and Song of Songs verses. Her chant shiur (class) for the week of Vayishlach comprises these verses that describe the experience (Dina’s experience? Our experience? ) of having to root down to the depths in order to blossom like a rose from the heart. “The garden of my heart is surrounded by wilderness, A treasure hidden by thick brambles and scrub-oaks Whose roots spread with vicious intensity, Blocking the paths, and yet…I can smell that lily, that apple-blossom shimmering At the center of my heart, its fragrance calling me” (from her In the Fever of Love).

  • Dina restored to her radiance, wearing her cloak of letters (no longer just the 12 simple ones). This image is adapted from that of the High Priestess from the Raziel Tarot. I am indebted to my one of my spirit buddies for alerting me to the image after I described to him a meditations I experienced of being in the flow of a fountain of letters.

  • The 13 attributes of mercy in Hebrew and English from Parsha Ki Tissa. The alignment of the months in the form of the Magen Davie according to Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh is adapted from Secrets of the Magen David by Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman.

  • And Dina went out - Hebrew and English - Gen 34:1. Parsha Vayishlach.

  • Top and bottom text strips - the tikkun of Dina from my own imaginal realm.


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