Just a Drop of Ink

Thursday, 12 January, 2017 - 1:11 pm

I was checking the Mezuzahs at a business owned by members of the community this week. We discovered an issue with one of the scrolls. The form of a single letter was misshapen; there appeared to be a drop of ink that had either run or dripped into the space of the letter rendering it invalid.

We got to talking about the impact that just a drop of ink can have. I recalled the passage in the Talmud where the sage warns the scribe how careful he must be with the letters. “With one drop of ink one can destroy the world.” Seems a little hyperbolic?

The letters Daled and Reish are almost identical in form. The only difference is a slight protrusion of ink off of the back of the top line of the daled. It is as if a little yud sticks out of the back of the daled, whereas the reish does not have that. What is a yud? A drop of ink. Now picture a scribe writing the words of the Shema. The last word of the line is Echad, ending in a daled. Imagine if a fly touched down on the parchment at the exact spot and erased the ink of the little yud (drop) on the back of the daled. We would then be left with a reish, rendering the word as Acher (other) rather than Echad (one). We have now transformed the meaning of the verse from a pivotal declaration of Divine Unity, to a command to worship a foreign deity.

Let’s explore this a little further and see what this all represents in our personal character development. The words Daled and Reish have similar meanings – poor and destitute. Kabbala explains that the difference between the two is the drop of ink protruding from the back of the daled. That drop of ink, the yud, represents humility (the yud being the smallest letter of the Alef-bet). Let’s view the poverty here as spiritual poverty (poverty of knowledge, of character, of spiritual sensitivity or of holiness). If so, the difference between the poor Daled and the destitute Reish is humility. The daled (with the yud protrusion) is humble and is therefore open to influence and change. The reish (minus the yud) lacks humility and is therefore resistant to influence and change. A full cup cannot accept any more liquid whereas an empty one can.

Now we can begin to appreciate the power of just a drop of ink in the literal sense as it relates to Mezuzahs, Tefillin and Torah scrolls, as well in the figurative sense as it relates to personal growth. I encourage all of us to have our ink inspected on both levels. (Chabad is happy to help with any and all of the above.)

Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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