This has already been an interesting week as we move into the month of Adar, the month of Purim. And it has been a busy week. I started with a Chanucat Habayit at the new home of a member of our Chavura. It is always a joy to attach a Mezuzah to a new home, indicating to all that the Light of Sh'khina will shine through their lives for all to see and feel. The warmth and the Energy at that gathering was indeed glowing! Kol Tuv, Jane and Ernie!
The next day saw me and Rev Kate Huey of the Pilgrim Church in Cleveland co-moderating a discussion on gay/lesbian acceptance in religious circles. A special thanks to the Mayfield JCC for hosting this program as part of a larger series on this topic. As I was driving to the event, I was talking on my phone to one of my teachers -- and I will repeat the prayer we said together: "May we live to see the day when this becomes a 'non-issue'! May we, as people, learn to be as accepting and open to our fellow people as She is, regardless of how He made them." If every N'shama is precious in the One's sight, surely we can learn to appreciate that as well.
1. Parsha details: Ex 25:1-27:17, Deut 25:17-19 (tri 26:31-27:17 + extra) [Haftorah I Samuel 15:2-34 (Seph add 15:1)]
2. Questions and a few observations
Summary: Offerings -- And the DETAIL! the Mikdash (do you see kodesh (holy) in there?) and the Mishkan (do you see Sh'khina in there?) and accessories and curtains and hooks and rings and so on and on. Such detail.
It is easy at one level to say, "oy! that was for then, why bother about all this detail now!" Needless to say, the Sages noticed the extensive detail here as well! Nothing else in Torah gets such detail, although second place goes to some of the sacrificial details and there are the long lists of genealogy. Shabbat gets a few pasukim, and certainly Shabbat is important. Shabbat is in the Ten Commandments, the Mishkan is not. So why this detail?
And if we hold that Torah speaks to us through the ages, how is this detail going to teach us about today?
The Parsha starts out with the concept of free-will offerings from the people -- each to give as much or as little of the required items as he or she desires. Each can participate. Then we have the famous pasuk: "And let them make me a Mikdash (sanctuary); and I will (Shakhanti) dwell among them."
It is obvious that Sh'khina does not need the Mikdash in order to be present or to talk to people. God has been talking to people since Adam. So what is going on here?
Well, if all of this effort is not for the One, it must be for the people. And why does the Mishkan warrant this detail when Shabbat does not?
Okay, the detail is the trees and we need to step back and look at the forest.
If the Mishkan is for the people, what functions does it serve? Community, for sure, representation to others, also for sure. And communal preparation. This is about K'hilah, community! The Ten Commandments are about individuals and how individuals are to act toward each other. And each of us is the key to how that is to be implemented, we know it in our hearts through 'hard-wiring'. Details here can actually stifle the intention....
But the Mishkan is not hard-wired. And details are the point. Down to the hooks, the rings, the placements, the materials, etc. If you and I do not agree about how to DO Shabbat, that's okay -- it is between each of us and the One. If we do not agree about where to put the Aron haKodesh (the Ark), there will be major descension in the community. Sillier arguments have torn communities asunder.
Ahh -- so details are indeed what this is about. When we set out to do something for K'hilah, community, there MUST be agreement, down to the details. How long, what color, details. And writing them down for future reference is also a key. That way we all 'know' it is being done 'right'. Are the exact details critical?
Can we build the exact Mishkan described in such detail in Torah? No. Moshe is told "see that you make them after their pattern, which was shown to you in the mount."
So do all details need to be written down and agreed on? No, we can agree that someone is responsible for specific details and we accept that authority.
So there are very key points about community here. Enough detail to ensure the tasks get done and everyone can agree that the end product meets the community expectations. Delegation where appropriate and trusting that individual to do what is promised/assigned.
So why pure gold for some things and bronze and silver for others? Showcasing to others, but appropriately. It is important to conduct ourselves and our projects in a way that outsiders will see Sh'khina in us, even from a distance. And it is important that we not flaunt things and be 'overdone', either -- for that will hide the Light.
Gold when and only when it is required and other materials when they are appropriate. Make sure there is enough (effort, materials, etc), but do not overdo things.
And accessories that match the pattern -- pieces, parts that fit. Appropriate, holding together, supporting the overall effort. Don't let even one detail detract from the K'hilah effort -- and supporting it is 'free-will' for all, each to give what feels 'right' to them -- with no one else telling them what or how much to give.
3. Some Observations
I am always amazed at how much is in each Parsha, how powerful they each are. I really only scratch the surface in these weekly divrei. I can tell that no matter how many more years I will continue this practice, there is no way I will even begin to exhaust learning and delving and ferreting out what is in each one.
Looking at the Tikun, a few things about this Parsha are striking. First, there is only one "Dabeyr YHVH el Moshe leymor" (YHVH spoke to Moshe, saying) in the entire Parsha. That is not common at all. And the Parsha is not a continuous column as one might expect if there is only one 'dabeyr'. Another interesting side bar here -- there are three openings (where a new 'paragraph' starts) in this Parsha, each section starting with "V'asita" (You (singular) shall do, make). There are five pauses in the four sections (a bit of white space, a partial line). Three of these also start with "V'asita". One starts with a different form of the same verb -- "V'asu" (they (imperative) do, make) and the other starts with "V'et hamishkan ta'aseh" (You (or she) will do, make the Mishkan....).
With the exception of the very first pasuk, which tells us that these instructions came from the One to Moshe, everything is about doing, making. Eight of the nine starts in this Parsha start with a form of Oseh, do, make. From this we can also see that this Parsha is about taking positive action to facilitate Sh'khina dwelling in our midst. Six times it is addressed to each of us personally in the singular (biblical imperfect tense). Once it says they are to do it and once it tells us that we or she (She?) will make the Mishkan.
So most of the time these are things that we can do every day, little things that bring the Light and the Warmth into everyone's daily life. The collection of all of these little things, with community harmony, builds the Mikdash, the holy place. Part of the plan, however, requires that we accept the work of others, the they, who must build the Aron, the Ark -- or at least the wooden structural part, the core. We are to participate in the golding of that wood, that structure, both inside and out.
And what about the Mishkan, the portable (well, sort of) larger structure that houses the sacred utensils, the table, the menorah (lamp) and the Aron (Ark -- that they built)? It is in the future, to be built. Or rebuilt in our Selves, in our hearts, in our very Beings? And the Aron, that holds the Eydut, the testimony... Torah does not say Torah or even tablets, it says Eydut, testimony, evidence. And nothing in Torah is by accident.
And this building and rebuilding is to be done with free-will offerings that come from the heart and are willingly given. Yes, this is a powerful Parsha.
4. Balancing Sophistication
Some of our teachers tell us that this Parsha is about balancing sophistication. An interesting additional layer to the building and detail of this Parsha. Balancing implies enough without overdoing it. Sophistication -- certainly there is sophistication in the details of the Mishkan. And yet, there is a simplicity there as well -- once it is assembled, it is one. The appearance of all of these assembled details will create a lasting impression on all who see it. It was 10 cubits high! (15 feet)
So if we are to balance sophistication, that would mean that we should not get caught up in minutia. We need to pay attention to detail and see that critical details are handled properly, but not get tangled up in things that don't add to the overall effort.
Coupled with this Parsha it sounds like a project manager's guide to projects. Sufficient planning and details to see to it that the project can and will get done. Graphics help ("make them after their pattern, which was shown to you in the mount."). Use the right materials for the job, Gold when it adds to the project, Silver for lesser uses and bronze when that is appropriate. And use sturdy wood for building, holding, supporting, gilded as serves the purpose, thus balancing function with appearance. And don't forget the cherubim, the small necessities, and place them as needed, so that they, too, add to the appearance while performing their functions. And the parts need to fit together ("all its utensils you shall make of bronze.")
Balancing sophistication does seem to describe the project manager's goal of keeping the overall picture in mind, eyeing the prize. And it is so easy to get caught up in detail and forget that the real goal is building the Mishkan, not in beating out perfect sockets. Or we get so rushed that critical details are left out and missing and the rings on adjoining curtains do not match up.
Of course, we are all project managers every day for hundreds of projects, little and big. This week teaches us to indeed be mindful of the sophistication and make it serve our work and not itself.
5 Special Shabbat
This week, Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor (Remember). One special reading from Torah accompanies the weekly Parsha. It is from Devarim (25:17-19) and reminds us to watch out for the Amaleks in our lives. These are the people who prey on the weak and the ones left behind. They wait for us to be tired, too tired to fight back or to even object to their wickedness when we see them preying on others.
Amalek is so evil, that no memorials, no positive memories of them are to be left behind them. What could be lower than greeting someone as they are traveling and then striking them down from behind when they are too weak to fight back?
Tradition tells us that Haman was descended from Amalek. We get this from the detail in this week's Haftorah that Agag was the king of the Amalekites and Haman is listed in the Megillah of Esther as "Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite". But then Saul was supposed to destroy all of Amalek.... (read the Haftorah and see what happened.)
And this is one of the four special Shabbats before Pesakh -- it is here because the attack of Amalek happened just three parshayot back, at the end of B'shalakh.
In most synagogues, two Torahs are brought out of the Ark and read from this Shabbat.
1. Mikdash/Mishkan: Imagine being in the wilderness, experiencing Har Sinai and then hearing Moshe describe these details to you, and then, slowly, seeing it assembling before you, piece by piece.
2. Offering: what would you give as an offering to build the mikdash or the mishkan? What form would it be and what form would it take on? How would it intermingle with the offerings of others?
3. Sh'khina: "V'asu li mikdash v'shakhanti b'tocham" Let them make me a mikdash and I will be present in their midst. Build a mikdash in your heart and let Sh'khina enter and be present.
There are many traditional interpretations of the parsha that I neither talk about nor mention. That is done from a position of space. I trust that the average reader is either familiar with these or can find many of them easily in other commentaries readily available.
Thanks for reading this. If I have offended you, please forgive me -- that was not my intention. If you found some joy or happiness in reading this, thank you for allowing me to be a part. If you found a reason to think about something more deeply - kol hakavod and thank you!
And to the people giving me feedback thank you so much! I enjoy all of it. (Including the typos) You have made this weekly practice wonderful.
(c) 2001 Candy Lobb All rights reserved