Random Feline Intuition

On Friday, I was thinking about the Shabbat morning service. Specifically, I wondered what I should say to introduce the Torah reading, Parshat Vayetze.

My cat Koi walked across my computer keyboard. With his feet, he typed three characters:


That seemed as good a start as any.

On my bookshelf, I found the book The Spice of Torah: Gematriya by Gutman Locks.

Gematriya refers to the Hebrew number associated with a Hebrew word. Because Hebrew letters are also used to represent numbers, every Hebrew word can also be read as a number.

The Spice of Torah: Gematriya lists every word in the Torah in numerical order.

I opened to the number 232. There I learned that 232 is the gematriya of

הבכרה – the birthright

הברכה – the blessing

בברחך – as you fled

בדרך – on the journey

לרב – to the many

In a flash of Koi’s intuition, I had found the words to summarize Parshat Vayetze: After Ya’akov tricks his father into giving him the birthright blessing, he flees his brother’s anger, and embarks on a journey. During the parasha he, the young single Ya’akov, becomes many: husband of two wives, father of eleven boys and a girl, master of thousands of sheep.

Not long ago, I found Reginald Bibby’s 1997 book Unknown Gods: The Ongoing Story of Religion in Canada. Even as attendance at formal religious institutions declines, Bibby argues, interest in spirituality grows.

In the chapter “Intrigue with Mystery,” Bibby shares stories of Canadians’ growing fascination with “the paranormal.” One story seems to be Bibby’s own. He had hoped to visit a long-lost friend while on a trip to Portland, but had misplaced an envelope containing the friend’s address. He had given up hope of finding the letter, but the night before the trip, his cat knocked down a pile of papers…and out fell the envelope.

When I read Bibby’s story, I wondered why he labeled it “paranormal.” To me, it seemed a straightforward story about an attentive, concerned cat. The cat had some idea of what Bibby was looking for and where it might be found.

Had Bibby simply underestimated his cat? Did he imagine this coincidence could only have been brokered by a Higher Power? Perhaps this Power nudged the cat to knock over a pile she had long ago learned to walk around.

Or did Bibby wonder, “How could the cat possibly have known what I needed?” Perhaps he suddenly realized he had misjudged his cat’s mind, and felt a door open into a wider world of connected consciousness. In this new world, everything might be more alive than he had previously known.

What about Koi?

Was Koi attempting to transmit numbers to me using a communication device I can read? Or is his apparent expertise in gematriya a coincidence? Did he seem expert only because I was desperate enough to follow any possible clue to its best conclusion? Did a Higher Power who does know gematriya direct Koi’s feet on the keyboard?

Really, I don’t need to know the answers.

I know that Koi’s life is intertwined with mine. He is attentive to patterns in my behaviour, and uses his knowledge to negotiate compromises with me. We have grown past the clumsy practice of making inferences about each other’s thoughts and feelings, and we just directly perceive them.

The story of Koi’s little Torah teaching is funny. I don’t need to explain it or explain it away. It’s one of those odd coincidences that remind us that we always stand at the threshold of a wider world of connected consciousness.

— Image: Koi, spring 2011, my photo. The gematriya master poses on Sophia Street beside the number of a significant Jewish year.
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