One of my most beloved rabbis is Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (1889 – 1943). Also known as the Piazetzner Rebbe, or the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto. He was a revered rebbe, teacher and spiritual master who stayed with his people in the ghetto, continuing to teach and offer comfort throughout the war.
In a book that he wrote before the war: Derekh HaMelekh (The Royal Road), he comments on the way that Noah’s name in the Torah is doubled. It says “This is the line of Noah: Noah was a righteous man…” In the unpunctuated Torah it looks like this: “This is the line of Noah Noah…” The rabbis ask, what does this doubling of Noah’s name mean?—it signifies, says Rabbi Shapira, the ability that people have to create a new self by drawing down spiritual wisdom literally into our bodies. In other words, we all are “double.” We each have a spiritual self, floating in potentiality, but we can make a “copy” of that spiritual self and make it manifest on our physical selves.
But he goes on to say, when we draw down our spiritual self, our hidden spiritual wisdom, into our bodies, it isn’t just making a copy. So much more is added. Shapira notes how when you have an idea in your head, and then you tell it or write it, often the idea will change: new insights come out when we involve our bodies in the creative process. I have had this experience many times in writing, but also in drama—acting out a biblical scene or a midrash can add so much to our understanding of its meaning—or in drawing, dance, yoga, or other embodied practices. It is the nature of spiritual knowledge to manifest in new and exciting ways when we draw it into our bodies and into the physical world.
This mutual relationship between our spiritual and physical selves is typical of the kind of dynamic relationship based thinking that I find so exciting in the Piazetzner’s writings. We just took a peek at this commentary, but we’ll go more deeply into it in our 2019 Webinar series “The Royal Road to Relationship Spirituality” starting this January. Click here to read more about the class and to sign up for 2019. We can’t wait to have you!