Tag Archives: Mishkan

Parshat Shemini (5774)


Leviticus 9 – 11

Because Creation is a Process

Life most definitely has its ups and downs. Even more frustrating to many of us is when we feel that we aren’t making progress, or even like we are going backwards from the goals that we most aspire to. This is common to most people, and that is what we are going to talk about. You aren’t alone in this, my friends.

The children are waiting for seven day's for the presence of G-d to appear. And so far nothing happened. How would you feel?As we get into this weeks lesson I want to start by reminding us that even though we are still early on into a new book of the Torah, Vayikra – the book of Leviticus – this is really a continuation of the story we were following in Shemot – in Exodus. Later books are often regarded as repetitions by scholars, but these are the original instructions. So in this book we will find many signs and hints to the basic groundwork of the ritual worship, and the philosophy driving them. I want us to keep this in mind as we read this book. There is so much we can learn if we slow down and just consider it.

Let us begin with the key verse we will focus on from this week’s parsha:

“Moses and Aaron went into

the Tent of Meeting,

and when he came out

they blessed the people.

And the glory of Hashem appeared

to all the people.”

| Vayavo Moshe ve’Aharon

| el-Ohel Mo’ed

| vayetse’u

| vayevarechu et-ha’am

| vayera chevod-Hashem

| el-kol-ha’am

Leviticus 9:23

In the previous verse we learned that Aharon lifts up his hands to extend the priestly blessing, he gives the birkat kohanim. “May Hashem bless you and keep you – May Hashem make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you – May Hashem lift His face unto you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26; see Rashi to Lev. 9:22; see Parshat Nasso 2012)

And then there is a second blessing that is also given, we aren’t exactly sure what that is. (see Parshat Shemini 2011) However, according to midrash we are given a suggestion of what the second set of blessings are. We discussed this a few weeks ago. (see Parshat Pekudei 5774)

Rashi repeats these blessings again in his commentary upon this verse as well:

Then they came out and blessed the people: They said: “May the pleasantness Hashem, our G-d, be upon us (Ps. 90:17); May it be Gd’s will that the Shechinah rest in the work of your hands.” [And why did they choose this particular blessing?] Because throughout all seven days of the investitures, when Moses erected the Mishkan, performed the service in it, and then dismantled it daily, the Shechinah did not rest in it. The Israelites were humiliated, and they said to Moses, “Moses, our teacher, all the efforts we have taken were only so that the Shechinah should dwell among us, so that we would know that we have been forgiven for the sin of the [golden] calf!” Therefore, Moses answered them (verse 6), “This is the thing Hashem has commanded; do [it], and the glory of Hashem will appear to you. My brother Aaron is more worthy and important than I, insofar as through his offerings and his service the Shechinah will dwell among you, and you will know that the Omnipresent has chosen him.”

ויצאו ויברכו את העם: אמרו ויהי נועם האלהינו עלינו (תהלים צ יז), יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם. לפי שכל שבעת ימי המלואים, שהעמידו משה למשכן ושמש בו ופרקו בכל יום, לא שרתה בו שכינה, והיו ישראל נכלמים ואומרים למשה משה רבינו, כל הטורח שטרחנו, שתשרה שכינה בינינו ונדע שנתכפר לנו עון העגל. לכך אמר להם זה הדבר אשר צוה התעשו וירא אליכם כבוד ה‘ (פסוק ו), אהרן אחי כדאי וחשוב ממני שעי קרבנותיו ועבודתו תשרה שכינה בכם ותדעו שהמקום בחר בו:

Rashi to Leviticus 9:23

We see these two blessings repeated again for us, as they were in the commentary for Exodus as well. However, if you notice the order is actually reversed to what it was before. In the commentary for Parshat Pekudei we saw the lines of “Yehi ratzon / May it be Your will…” first, and then followed by a verse of Psalm. Here they are reversed. In fact the section of “yehi ratzon” is also truncated here, so I believe this text is just mentioning all this in passing. And therefore does not give much consideration for the actual decorum of the process. That or it is not defined firmly one way or the other because of speculation. One can’t exactly be sure.

As when previously discussed both then and also last week, when we have been talking about the Mishkan (tabernacle) we have most often been talking about the people having an outlet for their spiritual and creative expression. That they people felt the need to create this sanctuary in order to pro-actively do something about their need to feel close to G-d. We have talked about how we should thus encourage people to be active, and how to respond to people’s creativity. But we have really sidestepped around the issues of why they are doing all of this, only mentioning it in passing.

I want us to step back and remind ourselves once again. It is because there was a rift made between the children and Israel and G-d on the day that they made, and worshiped, the Golden Calf. The presence of Hashem which hung around and guarded them, it was no longer with them in that manner. They felt alone and exposed. They felt the shame and consequences of their error. Now they desperately wanted to feel that closeness to G-d once again.

There are some ironies of both to stories of the egel (the calf) and the making of the Mishkan. You don’t have to think too hard to come up with a few. Like how is it that the people are this captivated with their construction of all of this, when they had previously been punished for also constructing items of worship? Then they made an egel of gold, and now they are making angelic figures and the like as well. Didn’t this get them in trouble before? So what’s the difference?

The difference was that they intended to make items to help them worship, but instead they made items which became idol focuses of their worship. Our rabbis tell us, as it is also pointed out in philosophical works such as the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah and the Kuzari of Yehuda haLevi, that the people were not really constructing items to necessarily worship, but to help them focus their worship toward G-d. The eygel being a way to meditate upon G-d, not to worship as a god. But it got twisted around, in a most horrible way.

What the scriptures and our sages reveal is that the people fell into error when they could no longer be patient and wait for Moses to return with the instructions of Torah. Instead they constructed something of their own, according to a design they were already familiar with from past idolatry. They couldn’t wait for G-d or Moses, so they went at it themselves in a disastrous spectacle.

A spectacle which harmed this people and left them alienated from the presence of G-d. This guiding presence departs during the entire incident of the eygel.

Because the children of Israel couldn’t wait and be patient, they literally took matters into their own hands. And in doing so, they didn’t progress. They instead lost the presence of G-d which had guided them and comforted them.

Now that the Israelites had the instructions from Moses on how to do this worship right, this was what consumed them. And now in line with these commandments the Israelites are also desperately trying to atone for themselves as well. Something which can only be accomplished through a true act of worship, as described by Moses in the revelation of Torah. They need the temple worship, in order to atone for their sins.

This was the cause of anxiety. Not only were they waiting for the presence of G-d to return to them. Not only were they ready to show real acts of worship done right. But they were also desperately waiting for G-d to accept their gifts with a sign of His presence, so that they will know that their sins have been forgiven. This is what they are anxiously awaiting, for validation of their atonement and redemption.

What our midrash further tells us here is just amazing. We are told that the Israelite’s anxiousness and sense of disappointment became overwhelming over the week of the inauguration of the Mishkan. Not only did the presence of G-d not appear to them until the end of the seven days, we are told that on each of the seven inauguration days the Mishkan was reconstructed – as it was dismantled each day of this week of dedication.

How can this be, how is it that our sages suggest such a thing? Why would it be taken apart and set-up up again each of these days?

Remember how earlier I was saying how this book of Leviticus is a continuation of the story started in Exodus? In Exodus chapter 29 we learn that the inauguration is supposed to take seven days, that’s what the whole chapter is about.

But from where do we get the idea it was reconstructed and erected seven times? Keeping in mind this story as all one, the rabbis took notice that there are two times we see a plan given of the Mishkan  in Exodus (Parshat Tetzaveh; 25:10-30:38, 31:7-11) and five times in Leviticus (Parshat Pekudei; 35:11-19. 6:8-39:32, 39:33-42, 40:1-16, 40:17-33). Seven times in this long narrative over two books.

Our rabbis would suggest we have it repeated seven times because it was reconstructed each day, for seven days. And as we often mention, our sages are of the opinion that nothing is redundant and superfluous in the Torah, so each of these descriptions must have been useful for something. Thus there are seven descriptions, for the seven times it was reconstructed.

The number seven is mystically significant in our tradition. It has great symbolism for us. There are seven days in the creation story. And therefore there are seven days of the week. There are seven years in the shmitah cycle – which again completes its cycle with a fallow year for agriculture in Israel next year in 5775. And of course there are seven branches on the Menorah. There are many connections to the number seven found in the scriptures.

We can clearly see that two themes seem to run through them all. Creation, and the completion of a cycle.

When it comes to creation we understand what these people were doing now, they were trying to redeem themselves. They were trying to get close to G-d. Now they were trying to get their sins forgiven, and also beginning to worship the correct way. But nothing happened. G-d did not show up and accept their gifts those first few days, so we are told they felt nichlamim – they were humiliated.

Unlike the eygel (calf) which somehow got them immediate gratification, the creation of this tent of worship and all its service was taking time. But if we think about it, creation took time even for G-d – seven days to create the world. Should they not have expect that their own creative endeavors would take time to be full achieved as well? Is that not a lesson which we can take away from this?

And the constant construction and deconstruction of the Mishkan all these days, is this not something that is mirrored in our own daily lives? Do we not often put hard work into our endeavors, making so much progress, only to see setbacks? When we think we’ve gotten somewhere, we see our work and plans deconstructed right before our eyes.

What we learn is that the first six days were just dress rehearsals. In the end we are told on the seventh day fire came down from heaven and consumed the offerings. And thus the presence of G-d returned, the people were forgiven and the service began. (see Parshat Shemini 2011)

But why is it so important that we make mention of this?

The reason is because it serves as a lesson for us like it did for the children of Israel in the wilderness, that we need to keep at it until our mission is accomplished. And that we need to stick with the full cycle, because creation is a process. Often times we don’t get it all right the first few times, but eventually we will and it will be glorious. We just need to stick with it, and be patient as we see it through.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Parshat Terumah (5774)


Exodus 25:1 – 27:19

G-d Asks for the Work of the Artisan

This parsha is about beauty and closeness to G-d. It is displayed for us through the story and details surrounding the creation of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – as well as the holy ritual objects of the sanctuary. Today our chumash reading explains the work and artistry that went into the creation of the first temple compound. So this week’s lesson is about the work of the artist as well.

This iotti tailors one of the most loved of the parashiot for the artists and the craftsman. This parsha lays out the details of the holy place and items that were to be constructed. We read not just of the holy tent, but also learn the details concerning the most sacred and precious items such as the Ark of the Covenant and Menorah. For this reason architects and artisans alike have often turned to this parsha for grand inspiration.

So I come looking for something to speak to that creativity deep in me. And most surprisingly I find myself lingering here in our fifth reading.

At the top of our text it presents us with the instructions for certain items that needed to be woven for the mishkan. Among them are the parochet and the masach – the dividing partition and the screen-door to the inner-sanctuary.

This reading begins by detailing the first of these items that secure the tent sanctuary. It starts with the parochet – the cloth partition wall, the so-called “veil” of the tabernacle. We read:

“And you shall make a dividing curtain

of blue,

purple,

crimson,

and fine twisted linen –

the work of a master weaver.

And woven on to it shall be cherubim.”

| Ve’asita parochet

| techelet

| ve’argaman

| vetola’at

| shani veshesh moshezar

| ma’aseh choshev

| ya’aseh otah keruvim.

Exodus 26:31

Near the end of our reading we have an almost identical verse as it describes the masach. Here we also read:

“And you shall make a screen

for the door of the tent

of blue,

purple,

crimson,

and fine twisted linen –

the work of an embroiderer.”

| Ve’asita masach

| lefetach ha’ohel

| techelet

| ve’argaman

| vetola’at

| shani veshesh moshezar

| ma’aseh rokem

Exodus 26:36

These verses may not seem very deep, but they speak a lot to me. Of course for the scholar and the masters there are many deep and amazing things that can be brought down for these verses. About the colors spoken of (tichelet!), about the use of linen and the use of wool, or even the glory of G-d that they are supposed to be shrouded within. But today I’m not talking to scholars or tzadkim – I’m talking to the ben-oni, the common man like me, who face the everyday hardships and sorrows. I’ll tell you what I see.

When I look at this verse, even in my very common ways, I can’t help but be struck by the beauty of these verses. Me of all people, who is known for being rough. Yes, the punk exterior of me and my pals often comes off as boorish and untamed to some people. And then I sit and ask strangers to entertain the beauty of weaving and needlepoint, as with this text. That’s just my way.

They listen to me because of my sincerity as I ask them to practically consider crochet and doilies. With an attention to the delicacy that is so polar opposite to the role I’m supposed to play in their mind.

I can talk about it with passion because in this I see more than the facts and the Talmudic connections that slice through this text in my mind as I read. I get caught in the colors and the texture of it all.

And truth is, this text also touches me in a way that even I least expect. Not just because of the frilly and froufrou nature of these works. But also because these verses talk about division and separation. The protecting of the sacred space, by shrouding its inner sacredness from the outside. My rebel nature doesn’t like the idea of not being let in, I want to see it all and right now. That is how my anxious and curious nature normally works.

And so it is in the minds of many anxious and inspired readers as they read this parsha. We notice of all the wonders of the holy space and the sacred objects, and just when we get to the good parts, we then read about the partitions and screens that only the priests would be allowed to pass through.

Now notice these partitions are of wool threads and the screens of linen. The parochet is woven, the masach is likewise of cloth though it is embroidered. On the parochet we are told there were keruvim – cherambim, the forms mystical creations – woven into it.

What extra details can our tradition give us about this type of craft? The Talmud, and Rashi in-tern, describe this type of work more clearly when expounding upon verse 36. We are taught that the embroidery of the screen-door was blue, purple and deep-red like the parochet, but here Rashi also tells us that the needlepoint was done on the face and on the reverse as well. Both sides of the screen were covered with matching embroidery running through them, made of the richest threads they could produce. This wasn’t just a hollow-set or poster approach, it was adorned and decorated for appreciation outside and within, both front and back.

Yes, my restless mind wants to go inside, as there is something yet to be seen. So what stops a person here? Nothing more than the beauty of the threads and boldness of their colors. Even though one’s mind should tell them to rush forward in curiosity, the patterns catch my attention and mentally draw me back. You see the body and spirit wants to rush forward, but the soul stops it all at the patterned threads. And so in the face of these holy, royal and cautious colors I stop to consider the art instead.

Now there is a part of us all, which in the face of this type of example, wants to ask, “Why?” Why can’t I go inside to see what it looks like? Is it really the same? What are they hiding in there? We can’t help but ask why this is so, as the tabernacle veil is the archetypal example of spiritual barriers and limitations.

So what is this partition which drapes the sanctuary? We don’t really need a difficult explanation delivered to us. We know what is being protected. And when we consider it, the Holy of Hollies isn’t being protected from us. Quite to the contrary, we are being protected from the wonders within. From the amazing glory of Hashem. We are all aware of the safety measures taken for the priests, for when they are allowed to go there, and of their care in order to preserve their lives.

Yet our master Rashi, always in his tone as personal teacher, points this out again with care. He demystifies the masach as being a viylon – a curtain or a drape, not much more. Citing Job 1:10, Rashi tells us that this is like a hedge of protection; he uses his understanding of a mutual meaning as shared by the similar sounding, yet differently spelled, root words. By focusing on this thought, he asks us to consider the protection that G-d sets around those whom He blesses. This is what we understand as he says this, that by masach (screen-door) we are actually talking of lishon magen – a term for a protection, a shield.

Does art bring out the softer side in you too?

Does art bring out the softer side in you too?

These screens and partitions bore symbols of warning blazoned on them in brilliant threads. But not the “magen David” – the Shield of David, the “star of David.” No, instead they bore the symbols of the cherubim, the angelic creatures which guarded the inner chamber. This artistry was a warning to the outsiders of the danger and the glory within. Inside and out, they were woven and embroidered in this matching way to scream this in shocking colors.

However, as I look over the text I can’t help but entertain a thought. Could it be that there another reason still? Another reason to give a vision of this wonder on these partitions, one aside from warning people?

It appears to me that G-d did not just shut out the people from the Holy of Hollies without giving them a glimpse of the amazing and terrible realities within. On the very barrier instituted as a safety, on it G-d asked for the artisans to display a presentation for what was inside. These patters mirrored the golden standing cherubim within the Holy of Hollies and over the Ark of the Covenant.

For those who were not able to go inside and witness for themselves, it was displayed on the exterior. So that the average Israelite wouldn’t be left wondering and ever longing to see the deeper things.

In these so-called veils, we see the most exquisite craft works of the finest materials. Of the highest quality, and of the most delicate skill. But for as rich and precious as these works are, they are not really made for the benefit of G-d. They are made for us, for the benefit of the people. To protect us, and give us vision.

G-d doesn’t really need yarn crafts and needlepoint. It’s for people like you and me.

So when I see this barrier instead of wanting to mentally yank it down and march on in philosophically, I get stopped by the texture of the brilliant threads. The gentle artist in me demands I consider the layers of truth symbolized through these many loops and pulls woven into the pattern.

Now the artist in me also finds his eye lingering and his mind settling around another point. One which we first notice in the wording of verse 31, and that is then rightfully touched upon in the commentary for verse 36. Rashi’s commentary brings our attention to the final word of verse 36, and reads:

An embroiderer: Heb. רֹקֵם, the name of the craftsman, not the name of the craft. Its Aramaic translation is עוֹבַד צַיָיר, work of an artist, but not עוֹבֵד צִיוּר, work of artistry.”

רקם: שם האומן, ולא שם האומנות, ותרגומו עובד צייר.

Rashi to Exodus 26:36

Our teacher points out to us here, that when Hashem gave this command to the people He did not ask them to make art works for Him. Nor did He asked them to make crafts. What He asked the Israelites to do is make “maaseh rokem,” – works of artisans, the works of craftsmen. It mentions rokem – craftsmen, though not the craft itself.

In this view G-d is actually more interested in the artists, more than the art itself. After all, it wasn’t really for Him anyway. Though this artistry and toiling was done for the honor of Hashem, it was primarily prescribed in order to give us security and inspiration. G-d calls people to do this work, creating these screens and adorning them. He wants the works of artisans and craftsman – but the crafts are just the product, though not the impetus.

Here in the most unlikely of lessons, one seeming as exciting to a grown man as talking about frills and lace, we end up getting a touching lesson on how to reach the hearts of the restless masses.

I wish more of us were like Rashi and able to understand art in a deeper away. But not just “art for arts sake”, but art for the sake of the artists. For the interest of the people. Art which displays both the wonders and dangers of spiritual exploration. Here we are challenged to use ones skills and gifts to take people mentally and spiritually beyond what the physical limitations normally allow. A closeness to the spiritual other-side that can’t be safely achieved by any other way. In vivid and stylized forms, G-d asks the artisan to give his art.

In this lesson the Torah reaches out to people like me who are tough, and often hard to reach by any other means aside from art. And likewise, Rashi as a wise teacher reaches out to the seeming “youth at risk” and gives us art to display our creativity through, as opposed to rushing to do damage.

So now I hand this over to you. Take a good look for yourself. What do you see in the pattern?

Art Project Possibility: After I posted this lesson I came across this project in the newsletter of my hometown synagogue, it’s a communal art projects called “Torah Stitch By Stitch” started by Canadian artist Temma Gentles.

She explains the project this way, “Torah Stitch by Stitch is a project of ordinary people who want to experience the purpose, rigour and spirit of producing the holy texts. Rather than quill, ink and parchment, cross-stitch embroidery is used – a traditional method in many cultures for teaching young women to sew and to read.”

Their mission is described as follows: “It is possible – with 1463 volunteer stitchers plus fabricators and other helpers – that we will will produce the text of the Five Books of Moses. When these are assembled into 248 columns that comprise a Torah scroll, the artwork will occupy a space approximately 2 meters high by 86 meteres long. That would be a spectacular sight! And one tha tis sure to interest several prestigious museums.”

 See their website to sign-up for the $18 registration starter-kit!

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Parshat Terumah (2013)


Exodus 25:1 – 27:19

Making a Dwelling Place for G-d

Hashem spoke to Moses saying:

Speak to the Children of Israel

and let them take for Me a portion,

from every man whose heart motivated him

you shall take My portion.”

| Vayedaber Hashem el-Moshe lemor

| Daber el-benei Yisra’el

| veyikchu-li trumah

| me’et kol-ish asher yidvenu libo

| tikchu et-trumati

Exodus 25:1

Pillar of Smoke and FireThis weeks parsha begins with the words “Vayedaber Hashem el-Moshe lemor / Hashem spoke to Moses saying.” The first question we should ask ourselves is, when did He say this; when did this take place? There are various possibilities presented to us by our Sages and Rabbis. The Baalei Tosafot, Ibn Ezra, the Zohar and several other commentaries say that these words were spoken to Moshe Rabbenu – Moses our Teacher – when he went up to the mountain for 40 days. However, Rashi’s commentary of Exodus, with both Tanchumah and Seder Olam Rabbah, contend that these words were spoken after the incident of the Golden Calf when Moses went up to receive the second set of tablets. However the point should be made that we are certain that these words are connected to either one of these events; you see the book of Exodus primarily concerns itself with two topics from here on. Aside from the story of the Gold Calf (which only takes up two chapters), the remainder of the book of Exodus is devoted to the preparation for construction of the Mishkan the Tabernacle. This parsha is named Trumah, after the portion contributed by each person to help build this Tabernacle sanctuary mentioned here.

In terms of the dictation of biblical commandments, the central focus of the mitzvot of Exodus surrounds the Mishkan. This being the case then we must furthermore ask ourselves what the significance of the Mishkan is. For the Hebrew speaker the word Mishkan is so direct and simple that the profoundness of it can easily be missed; Mishkan literally means a dwelling place, or a habitation. Before the Beit haMikdash the Temple – this was done in the Mishkan tent and not a fixed building, but here in this parsha we see the foundation of Temple worship laid for both instances. Our parsha reads:

Now they shall make Me a sanctuary,

and I will dwell among them.”

| Ve’asu li mikdash

| veshachanti betocham.

Exodus 25:8

And that is really all the place was, a sanctuary constructed unto G-d. There was indeed a type of worship that was centered in this complex, it was designed with altars for sacrifices of all sorts, but namely the perpetual tamid offering of incense that was always lit as the central element of worship. The other task of temple worship was to care for the Holy of Hollies (Kadosh Kadoshim), held in an inner building that also had a perpetually lit candelabrum, the Menorah that illuminated the sanctuary. This was considered the earthly dwelling place of the G-d of Israel. It was so notorious that people from all over the world came to witness it, even though no one other than the high priest was allowed to go into the innermost sanctum. The priests occupied themselves with maintaining this during the day, but the symbols of its occupation through its fires was constant.

What demanded so much attention? What made this all so holy that it would drive the theme of the scriptures so much and the imaginations of people throughout the ages in such a profound way? Even those who are not G-d fearing have asked this question.

In the year 63 B.C.E. after years of besieging the city of Jerusalem the arrogant Roman general Pompey insisted as “victor” had the right to enter into the Holy of Holies itself – beyond of the veils into the Kadosh Kadoshim, his motivation seemingly one of defiance as much as curiosity. Roman historian Tacitus made note of it this way:

Roman control of Judaea was first established by Gnaeus Pompey. As victor he claimed the right to enter the Temple, and this incident gave rise to the common impression that it contained no representation of the deity — the sanctuary was empty and the Holy of Holies untenanted.”

The Histories:” Book Five §9,

Cornelius Tacitus, 105 C.E.

When Pompey entered he found no images, no symbols of any kind. All he found was old Torah scrolls occupying the inner chambers. Though this is documented over 150 years after the fact, this is one of the only historical and independent reference we really have that describes the interior for us. Flavius Josephus would also note this event as well, but aside from that the only thing we know about the Temple is from the Torah and the Talmud.

I find it interesting that of all the things that is noted by the classic historians, they would marvel in the lack of images or representations of a deity. Also when Tacitus and Josephus, both imperial Romans but one being non-Jewish and the other Jewish, make this point and note that it is unoccupied they are making a huge statement. Normally in the Greco-Roman custom, like for most other non-Jews of the region, it was common for even a priests or priestesses to be consecrated as a living deity and abide in the inner chambers of their temple complexes. But this was not the case here. It was unique and noteworthy, there were no idols nor demigods or devis in this sanctuary.

Though this is not what surprises most of us Torah students, we are not at all taken back by its lack of images or representations. In much of our recent studies we have discussed the Torah’s demand that we not give in to idolatry and how it champions iconoclasm. In terms of general religion this complex is pretty simple, but this Temple is not exactly empty though. So what should surprise us is the nature of the commandments being given in order to make a sanctuary. The specifics for construction are extremely detailed and demanding, building instruments that are intended for a home; candelabras, tables, curtains, ect. Why are they being told to build things out of precious gold, to make a dwelling tent for an incorporeal G-d? What type of need does it satisfy?

In the Talmud people also wrestle with this question, and the rabbis come to an interesting conclusion as to why all the ritual tenants of the sanctuary were created:

Rabbi Sheshet retorted: ‘Place the lampstand outside the curtain of the Ark of the Covenant…’ (Lev. 24:3) Does [the Holy One, blessed be He] need it’s light? All forty years that the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, were they not following His light? However, the lampstand attests to all who are in the world that the Divine Presence dwells among Israel.”

מתיב רב ששת: (ויקרא כד) מחוץ לפרוכת העדות יערוך וכי לאורה הוא צריך והלא כל ארבעים שנה שהלכו בני ישראל במדבר לא הלכו אלא לאורו אלא עדות היא לבאי עולם שהשכינה שורה בישראל:

Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 22b

In this text Rabbi Sheshet asks us to consider a section of Torah of Leviticus 24:1-4. What our text seems to imply is that even though some of the ritual items appear to have a usefulness, their purpose is for more than mere functionality. For those who are keen to the rituals of Torah know there were no Temple services that took place during the evening, there was no work for the priests to do that demanded light. The lamp-stands were purely intended to stand before the presence of G-d, in the same way as the golden cherubim that were made also stood there to herald the presence of G-d in the sanctuary and flood it with reflective light off their golden wings. The priest didn’t work by the menorah’s diffused light, nor did G-d need its light as He showed His presence in a self-illuminating cloud before His people during the Exodus. Our rabbis here contend that the reason for the ritual items was to signify to the world that G-d’s presence dwells among Israel.

I want us to remember that this section of Torah goes in tandem with Golden Calf crisis, either being immediately before or precisely after the incident. It may seem odd to us that G-d, who unleashes wrath on the people for making a cult around objects of gold and worshiping before them, that here He would be commanding people to make a Temple complex and corresponding rituals for it in worship to Him. Again, no one is exactly sure if this is taking place while the people are below building a Golden Calf or if it is after the fact; but what the juxtaposition of these stories tells us is that G-d had to define right away how the people of Israel were going to be able to relate to Him because left to their own devices they would degenerate into idol worship. And that is exactly what happened, after Moses and the cloud of glory ascended to the mountain and was far off from them for long.

Though our Talmud lesson here turns it all around on us, it make the point that G-d did not need any of these items anymore than He needed a lamp for light. But the people felt a great need, they intensely needed something to symbolize that G-d dwelt among them. Just like the pillar of cloud by day, the smoke of incense offerings would raise up from the middle of the camp; and the same as a pillar of fire by night, the Menorah would shine its light to remind the people of the Divine Presence that dwelt among them.

I have to stress that point, that this sanctuary is to remind the people that G-d dwells among them, because the truth is that G-d is always with us. In all instances before the dedications or restorations of the Temples G-d made it known that He would dwell their in their midst, not just because they had built a complex but because He dwells with His people forever. (compare Exodus 25:8, 29:45; Zachariah 2:14-15; I Kings 6:13; Ezekiel 43:9)

We need to understand that this commandment regarding building of the Tabernacle and the Temple instruments is not one of, “Build it and He will come.” Instead it is more like, “Build it, so that you will know that He is with you.”

As we look back at our ancestors and consider the context of their way of worship, perplexed as to what motivated them to show their adoration for the Divine in this way, we need to understand that all people have an innate drive to bring holiness and wholeness into the world. We all desire to make things better than they are, to bring a purposefulness and intentionality to things in our world. And this was their way of showing it. In the chassidic, mystical work of the Tanya we find the following statement made:

Now it is so for every person, |

and the purpose of all His creations |

and the creation of all the worlds, |

to make a dwelling place for |

G-d in this lower world.” |

זה כל האדם 

ותכלית בריאתו 

ובריאות כל העולמות 

עליונים ותחתונילהיות 

לו דירה זו בתחתוני

Likkutei Amarim – Tanya, Chapter 33

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe

On a fundamental level, everything in the universe was created to be an embodiment of godliness. The kabbalists teach us that the universe was created as a space in order for the Divine to be manifest. The universe is a canvas, and the elements in it are materials we can artistically fashion to show the glory of the Divine. And each of us people, our desire is to bring completion and holiness to this world. Us living things have an internal drive to be partners in this act of creation, taking the basic elements of the world and fashion them into a display of higher order. That is just what we are meant to do.

Though we do not have a Temple that stands before us, we need to be aware that the Divine Presence does dwell among us. And this Torah displays many other ways, aside from just the commandments of building a Tabernacle, for how we can manifest holiness in this world. We can take the basic elements of everyday life and raise them to holiness through completing mitzvot. We can take the ordinary things of life and impart spirituality and intention into them, and thus allow holiness to dwell in our homes and lives. In this way we can cause Hashem to dwell among us.

What type of contribution are you willing to make today in order to bring godliness into the world?

Related articles:


Parshat Re’eh (2012)


Parshat Re’eh
Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

The Place Where G-d Sets His Name: Why No Temple Yet?

Temple Mount with the presence of the restored Al Aqsa MosqueIn chassidut we learn that we are to live in the parsha; some weeks the message just meets up very nicely with current events. This is one of those weeks. I come into this week’s lesson having in mind the recent news that may suggest a new shift in religious experience for the Jewish people. It appears that for the first time within the context of the State of Israel a bill is being proposed that will allow Jews to be permitted to pray upon the Temple Mount. If passed and implemented this will break the long standing Muslim monopoly on worship in the site. This action comes to the forefront due to the assertion by foreign governments that the current baring of religious expression of non-Muslims is discriminatory. (see “Bill calls for Jewish prayer times on Temple Mount.” – Jpost ) The site is sacred to people of other faiths and they should also be permitted access. Yet we still await to see what will become of this. Are Jews attempting to build a Temple there? What does it mean for the site itself, and how does this play out for us when reading this situation through the eyes of Torah?

Many have wondered why it is that the Jewish people have permitted this dominance of Muslims over this site. Some can understand why in a secular state there might be little interest to dismantle the Muslim presence that holds the site, that is not the objective of a people’s state.

What is shocking to many is the religious reluctance to razing the mosque upon Har haBayit – the Mount of the House of G-d – and restoring it to its former glory once again as the Holy Temple of the Jewish people. After all, this is the most sacred site on the entire planet for us Jews, and only auxiliary in important to the other grandfathered religions that arose upon the foundations of Judaism. In fact the more Orthodox the person is, the more conservative one tends to be on the idea of seizing the Temple Mount, and the establishing of religious worship upon the site itself.

Warning from Cheif Rabbniate outside of Temple Mount Complex

Warning from Cheif Rabbniate outside of the Temple Mount complex

The simple reason is this, because we hold the site so sacred that we do not want to defile the sacredness of the place in our lowly condition. We may be politically liberated, but spiritually we are still in exile and will remain so until the coming of the Messianic Age; the future age of universal peace and stability. The more Orthodox a person is the more there is the sentiment that one must wait until it is established by Divine Will and not by force. Until then we keep going on with our business as usual, worshiping and making atonement through prayer in our synagogues through the sacrifice of our lips as spoken of by the prophets. (see Isaiah chapter 1)

Synagogue worship has a rich history dating back to our most ancient history. I need to point this out because most people think that the engagement of synagogue worship dates back only to the Greco-Roman period, where under exile and dispersement there was a system of congregational worship outside of the established Temple. This could not be further from the truth. This misconception comes from the fact that word synagogue is a Greek word (συναγωγή), however even the scholars tend to only think that worshiping in small, local sites could only date back to the Babylonian exile because it is in that context that we see the first use of the term in the Greek translations of the scriptures that references such congregations. This is also incorrect to us religious Jews. According to scriptures and the sages the basis of worship in a state of exile originated in the age of Moses; being taught to the Israelites on the outside boarder of the Promised Land, just opposite the Jordan before going into the Land. Also in this same speech he gives the a solution to what to do to establish a central religious site once they have settled.

Moses says to the Children of Israel:

“You shall not do

all that we do here today,

every man what is right in his own eyes.

For you have not yet come

into the resting place

or the inheritance

which Hashem your G-d

is giving to you.”

| Lo ta’asun

| kechol asher anachnu osim poh hayom

| ish kol-hayashar be’einav.

| Ki lo-vatem ad-atah

| el-hamenuchah

| ve’el-hanachalah

| asher Hashem Eloheicha

| noten lach.

Deuteronomy 12:8-9

Now what does this have to do with communal worship in dispersed Israelite communities? It might not seem apparent to us because most of us are used to hearing long speeches on this text, but taken out of context. Most often its ripped from the rest of the text as the more fundamentalist voices twist it around to call for the establishment of a religious state upon the basis of a Jewish majority. These extremists say that we cannot allow people any longer to just to do what ever they see fit now that we occupy our land, we need to live in a theocracy. Odd, considering they will wait for Mashiach for the Temple for not for formation of a halachic state based solely on Jewish religious law. That is not what it’s saying for us to do, at least not on the surface. So what does it plainly mean? For our answer we turn to our regular source for p’shat (a simple, surface, straightforward understanding), Rashi:

You shall not do

all that we do [here today…]:

referring to that above

‘For you are crossing the Jordan…’”

(Deut. 11:31)

לא תעשון |

ככל אשר אנחנו עשים וגו‘: |

מוסב למעלה |

על כי אתם עוברים את הירדן וגו‘: |

(דברים יא, לא) |

Rashi on Deuteronomy 12:8

Unless you know the Torah text very well, you might not see what he is getting at. What Rashi is saying is that this verse can only be understood in the context of the previous verses, starting above. So we are forced to roll back our reading in this parsha a little bit to see the full context:

At the start of the verses leading up to this, beginning with chapter 11 verse 31 we see that what is being said going forward is in the context of the people entering and permanently setting the land; to possess it and to dwell in it. That is key, not just posses it, but to also live in it. Once this happens the nation of Israel is to keep all the statutes and ordinances of the Torah that were given by Moses. (v.32) Now with be beginning of chapter 12 (even though this is all one actual paragraph, there is no break in our Hebrew text; as usual, chapters are arbitrary), we see that a set of commands about to be given. When are they to follow through with these commands? When they occupy it and decide to live there the rest of their lives; when permanently settled. (12:1) What are the commands? Our text continues:

“You shall utterly destroy from all the places

where the nations worship therein,

those whom you shall dispossess;

[whether they worship] their gods

on the high mountains

or on the hills,

or under every leafy tree;

you shall tear down their altars

and smash their pillars

and their Asherah [trees]

you shall burn with fire

their engraved gods you shall cut

and obliterate their name

from that place.”

| Abed te’abdun et-kol-hamekomot

| asher avdu-sham hagoyim

| asher atem yorshim otam

| et-Eloheihem

| al-heharim haramim

| ve’al-hageva’ot

| vetachat kol-etz ra’anan.

| Venitatztem et-mizbechotam

| veshibartem et-matzevotam

| va’ashereihem

| tisrefun ba’esh

| ufsilei eloheihem tegade’un

| ve’ibadetem et-shmam

| min-hamakom hahu

Deuteronomy 12:2-3

So here Rashi is pushing us back to the beginning of the text, forcing us to recognize that this verse of Deut. 12:8 means that they were not to do all the things that were spoken of herein once we have settled. It may seem strange to us, but this is the definitive answer on the subject according to the most accepted of Jewish commentary. Does Rashi really have a point or is this mere circular logic for the sake of harmonization?

If we look at what is commanded we see that the charge of G-d is to purge the land of idolatry. This is the call of iconoclasm par-excellence. All the places of Canaanite pagan worship are to be destroyed. The sacred altars and obelisks are to be smashed to the ground, their sacred groves are to be chopped down for firewoods, engravings and sculptures of their deities are to be cut up, and the names of their gods are to be obliterated.

As pointed out a couple weeks ago, the only other religion that holds iconoclasm this close to their core is Islam (see Parshat Ve’etchanan 2012); the only classical religion that Judaism does not define as polytheistic or pagan. Honestly, culturally us religious Jews have more in common with Muslims that can be said concerning us and any other religious group. Is is true there is a historic disparaging of non-Muslims on their part that has tried relations at times, a typical chauvinism held by a larger group upon on a historically humbled group in their midst. And certainly the current political clash between Islamicists and the State of Israel has created a displaced attitude of anger towards all Jews. Still that does not shake the fact we are very similar and when placed together are better in relation (when not instigated) than outsiders appreciate. We understand each other’s ways, the cultural and religious gap is not that great. And at the heart of the values that we endear about each other is the purity of our religions in abhorring idolatry and iconography; that is so rare in this world that it puts us in a small club. In this respect, the Muslims are our brothers.

However we do vary in a certain respects, we are not permitted to have idolatry in our midst; within our homes and dwelling places. But it is not generally our way to campaign in order to destroy all forms of iconographical art in all places; only in places of our own possession and dwelling. What people do in their own communities and homes is their own business and doesn’t concern us. This also applies to the mosque upon Temple Mount. Our indifference to the mosque’s presence is because there is no form of actual idolatry; no sacred odalisques to encircle, no sacred trees to worship, no sculptures to adore, and nor offensive name therein. Our command is to destroy such things, but they do not offend the site in such a way.

Furthermore there is a direct prohibition against us making such a provocative move as dismantling that house upon Har haBayit. We are not permitted to destroy any authentic forms of religion. We are not permitted to desecrate the holy. This is explicitly laid out for in the next verse of our parsha:

“You shall not do likewise

to Hashem your G-d.”

| Lo ta’asun ken

| l’Hashem Eloheichem.

Deuteronomy 12:4

And herein lies a remarkable mitzvah, an astonishing commandment. One so notorious that even the commentary of Rashi doesn’t seem like it needs to point out the presence of the powerful mitzvah derived from this text. But this is the actual point that Rashi is getting at, being a master it seems to slip his mind to have to do the setup for this directive (as you see from my feeble explanation, it takes a lot of background thinking). But herein we are commanded that we are not to destroy, in any way as described above, any sacred object to the true G-d. We cannot deface true religion, or it is as though we are defacing G-d Himself. Even to the most conservative in our midst Islam is considered misguided at times, but surely not idolatry and we cannot claim so because they have no presence of any of these offending objects. To deface items, especially at this site specifically as we will come to see, would be considered a desecration of the Name of G-d.

We take this seriously, so seriously that based upon this our sages lay down the command that we are not permitted to destroy any ritual object used to worship G-d with (Sifre Devarim) or item that bares the Name of G-d. (Talmud Bavli Makkot 22a); we cannot destroy the sacred. So careful are we to not show disprespect that religious Jews do not destroy any item that was used in a ritual or even bares a reference to G-d. It is the reason religious Jews are of the custom to not even spell out the name of G-d completely unless necessary, so that we are not prone to show contempt for the sacred name if the item were to be trashed. So obsessive are us religious Jews that we don’t throw the most inconsequential items away that are associated with religion, we keep them so that they are buried intact as part of a communal cache of sacred objects to be disposed of respectfully; many times on the periphery of a Jewish cemetery. (we dealt with this in length also in Parshat Nasso 2011)

Now notice when this goes into effect, it happens once they cross over into the Land. And furthermore only after one thing happens: after G-d chooses a permanent place for them to come to. Our text states this as it continues:

“But only to the place

which Hashem your G-d shall choose

from all your tribes,

to set His Name there;

there you shall inquire after His dwelling

and come there.”

| Ki im-el-hamakom

| asher yivchar Hashem Eloheichem

| mikol-shivteichem

| lasum et-shemo

| sham leshichno tidreshu

| uvata shamah.

Deuteronomy 12:5

It may sound like the text is stuttering, but its merely emphasizing a point through explicit repetition. Once G-d chooses a spot you shall come there, to one place that G-d will choose; and only there. Interestingly Rashi does not identify this site, as most religionists would, as the Temple. He is true to the context of the text and it’s simple meaning, he points to something more immediate that pertains to the Israelites at hand. His commentary thus reads:

To his dwelling shall you inquire:

this is the Mishkan [Tabernacle]

at Shilo,:

לשכנו תדרשו: |

זה משכן |

שילה: |

Rashi to Deuteronomy 12:5

Now one might wonder why Rashi feels the need to point this far back; what moral lesson is there and how yet does this play into his seemingly odd commentary to our starting verse?

Verse 6 begins to bridge the gap. Once G-d has chosen a permanent place they are to begin to bring all their burnt offerings there. Everything from obligatory burn offerings, all the way down to the donations and tithes. Everything is to be brought there, the obligatory and the free-will offering. Things that were mandatory, and even things that they optionally took upon themselves could be brought there. (v.6) There they will rejoice in all their endeavors, and for every blessing they receive they will worship together as a family at that chosen place. (v.7)

Now it took us a long time, and I apologize for that. But we must consider the fact our rabbis wrote in amazing shorthand and with assumption we keep certain underlying thoughts in mind. But this gets us back to the commentary at hand. Lets jump back to the commentary of our central verse; Deuteronomy 12:8:

You shall not do

all that we do [here today…]:

referring to that above

‘For you are crossing the Jordan…’

(Deut. 11:31)

[What this means is] when you pass over

the Jordan

you are immediately allowed to sacrifice

on a Bamah [Heb. stage, platform]

all the 14 years of conquest and division.

But on the Bamah you shall not sacrifice

all that you sacrifice here today

in the Mishkan [Tabernacle]

which is with you and has been anointed

and is [therefore] fit to sacrifice therein

sin-offerings,

guilt-offerings,

vows,

and donations.

Whereas on a Bamah

you may not draw close [to the Most Holy]

rather [this is for] what is vowed or donated.

And this is [the meaning of]

‘every man [doing] what he deems fit’

vows and donations

that you donate

because you deem fit to bring them,

not because of any

obligation [imposed upon you];

only these may you offer up

on a Bamah. [Sifrei; Zev. 117b]”

לא תעשון |

ככל אשר אנחנו עשים וגו‘: |

מוסב למעלה |

על כי אתם עוברים את הירדן וגו‘: |

(דברים יא, לא) |

כשתעברו את |

הירדן |

מיד מותרים אתם להקריב |

בבמה, |

כל ארבע עשרה שנה של כבוש וחלוק, |

ובבמה לא תקריבו |

כל מה שאתם מקריבים פה היום |

במשכן, |

שהוא עמכם ונמשח |

והוא כשר להקריב בו |

חטאות |

ואשמות |

נדרים |

ונדבות, |

אבל בבמה |

אין קרב |

אלא הנידר והנידב. |

וזהו |

איש כל הישר בעיניו, |

נדרים ונדבות |

שאתם מתנדבים |

על ידי שישר בעיניכם |

להביאם ולא על |

ידי חובה, |

אותם תקריבו |

בבמה: |

Rashi on Deuteronomy 12:8; 11th century CE

If we skip forward in to our parsha we see that there are a bunch of sacrifices and offerings laid out. Ones that are obligatory, and ones that are optional. Among the optional ones can be anything from just a general donation of an item, to ritually fulfilling a religious vow of a personal nature; they didn’t have to, but they are taking this pious act upon themselves. Any of them can be offered at the tabernacle, and this is stressed. But only the optional ones can be offered elsewhere. For 14 years they are going to be raging war in order to conquer the Promised Land. During those years there is not going to be a set place to establish the Mishkan. During that time they will be permitted to establish Bamas; stages, and platforms. Here they may offer up their optional forms of ritual giving; but only the optional ones. It is not exactly like the situation that the children of Israel currently know (ha-yom; today). They currently have a tabernacle, that is taken up and down as they move around. When they settle it is erected and they offer there but they are permitted to eat from it anywhere within the confines of the encampment. But in the days to come the tabernacle would be dismantled. They people are not going to be able go about business as usual in a state of war. It is understandable that the people will still want to worship in the interim, and for this there is presented the option to offer up on a Bamah in their communities.

Now the Bamah sounds unusual to some readers, but its not exotic at all. We see it all the time if we go to shul; just usually pronounced with an Ashkenazi tinge, the bimah. What the word Bamah actually means is a stage or platform. We are referencing the elevated place; in olden days people placed altars upon them, today we place tables instead. Over time people have begun to call the gracious table the bimah; the table upon which we perform our highest mitzvah – the reading of the Torah – but in actually the real bimah is the elevated platform itself.

Thus we see that the origins of congregational worship outside of a central, national Temple being presented. People are allowed to congregate throughout their lands as they begin to settle, setting up bimahs were they are able to worship for free will. But the karbannot, the atoning sacrifices, we do not allow to be offered until that Most Holy Place is established. This is a precedent, that will be a model going forward for the people of Israel in a state of partial exile.

I cannot stress it enough, as this parsha continuously stresses that what we are and are not allowed to do. It warns us explicitly to not offer burnt offerings just any place we might set our eyes (if we look forward to verse 13). Instead we are to wait. In Rashi’s commentary he acknowledges that there is coming a day that the people are going to dwell in the Land and therefore feel obligated to do certain things, but until the establishment of that sanctuary comes they are to use this model.

Moses going forward in this parsha is going to warn that they have not yet found their resting place (v.9) that will not start to happen until they begin to go into the land, and will not be completed until they dwell security and they are given tranquility from their surrounding enemies in that Land. (v.10)

After that happens he says what will take place in order to establish a permanent place of worship; G-d will intervene Himself and choose to establish a sanctuary for His Name. Thus text reads as follows:

“And it will be, that the place

Hashem, your G-d, will choose

in which to establish His Name there

you shall bring all that

I am commanding you:

Your burnt offerings,

and your sacrifices,

your tithes,

and the separation by your hand,

and the choice of vows

which you will vow to Hashem.”

| Vehayah hamakom

| asher-yivchar Hashem Eloheichem

| bo leshaken shmo sham

| shamah tavi’u et kol-asher

| anochi metzaveh etchem

| oloteichem

| vezivcheichem

| masroteichem

| utrumat yedchem

| vechol mivchar nidreichem

| asher tidru l’Hashem.

Deuteronomy 12:11

This verse here, this is the actual core verse of this parsha. It is going to drive the message of the rest of the parsha. Everything is going to be defined by this drawing line, this is what changes it all. When G-d decides to establish His Name at one spot, they would need to bring out of mothballs all the things they were previously commanded. Everything will be offered there, both optional and obligatory. At a place where He will choose to set His Name.

But what we need to remember is that from the moment they stepped over the river, they were at war. Things would not be business as usual again and there would be no going back to the desert cult of the Mishkan. And this would be noted by Rashi. You see our starting text serves as a good jumping-off point, being about showing reverence for the sacred. Because this would be played out literally in a unique way as they would show reverence for even the Mishkan too from that point on, only erecting it and moving it after times of destruction. Both times the Mishkan was erected within the Land of Israel it was destroyed by evil men, both at Shiloh and at Nob. Only then was it broken down and moved. Rashi points this out that next it’s instruments came to Gibion but there they choose instead to offer on a Bamah, until it’s instruments finally came to the rest in Jerusalem – the ultimate place that G-d has chosen to establish His Name.

Second Temple ReplicaWhen we imagine the ultimate symbol of Jewish freedom, we see that culminating with free and unfeathered access for Jews and the entire world to a House of Prayer for all the Nations in the age to come (see Isaiah 67:7). We cannot help but imagine and long for that day when we can look to Har haBayit – the Mount of the Holy House – and actually see the future house in all it’s glory and splendor. But because we cannot show disrespect to the sacred site without removing the honored building that is already there we hold this hope close to our heart. We take no actions of hostility, the truly pious will not lift their hand against the Holy Hill.

In our hearts when we set our prayers towards Jerusalem we may see the beauty of Solomon’s Temple rebuilt in our minds. We may long and yearn for it. Some of us even talk obsessively about it. But remarkably to date there has not been anyone of true religious clout to attempt or even suggest the seizing of Temple Mount and the demolition of its sites. At best people can claim that among us there is a fanatical attempt to preserve the site as much as possible for archaeological and historical reasons; and the seemingly eccentric occupation of some with readying themselves for the day that a Temple is established by the King Messiah.

Rashi in his commentary also makes mention to the holy Temple in Jerusalem. As he draws the connection he makes mention to King David, not to Solomon his son who actually built it. He makes mention to David because it was him who in his great love for G-d and as a sign of his accomplishment of settling a kingdom decided to build a permanent house for G-d to be worshiped in, within the walls of his capital in Jerusalem. He had come to dwell in a fine home, therefore it was only right that their G-d should dwell in a fine house. However, zealous and romantic we must feel about this we most certainly couldn’t feel more strongly than King David felt. However he is like us in that he found himself in a precarious situation. One that prevented him for being able to accomplish this task. Solomon, the actual builder of the Temple in Jerusalem would reference back to his father and solemnly reverence David’s unactualized hopes for that Holy House as he inaugurated it:

“Now it was in the heart of David my father

to build a House for the Name of Hashem,

the G-d of Israel.

But Hashem said to David my father:

Whereas it was in thy heart

to build a house for My name,

you did well that it was in your heart;”

וַיְהִי, עִםלְבַב דָּוִד אָבִי |

לִבְנוֹת בַּיִת, לְשֵׁם יְיָ |

אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. |

יֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶלדָּוִד אָבִי, |

יַעַן אֲשֶׁר הָיָה עִםלְבָבְךָ, |

לִבְנוֹת בַּיִת לִשְׁמִי — |

הֱטִיבֹתָ, כִּי הָיָה עִםלְבָבֶךָ. |

I Kings 8:17-18

When David conquers his territory and settles his land he wishes to build the Temple in. This is his original idea. G-d says that the sentiment is nice, and its a good idea. G-d will surely allow it to happen, but it will not be him to do it. Solomon honors his father as his dream is actualized.

What was the reason that kept David from building the Temple? We all know this answer, every student of Torah does. We know it because David explicitly told his son Solomon the reason:

“But the word of Hashem

came to me, saying: You have shed blood abundantly,

and have made great wars;

you shall not build a house unto My name,

because you have shed much blood

upon the earth in My sight.

Behold, a son shall be born to you,

who shall be a man of rest;

and I will give him rest

from all his enemies round about;

for his name shall be Solomon,

and I will give peace and quietness

unto Israel in his days.

[Then] he shall build a house for My name.”

וַיְהִי עָלַי דְּבַריְיָ, |

לֵאמֹר, דָּם לָרֹב שָׁפַכְתָּ, |

וּמִלְחָמוֹת גְּדֹלוֹת עָשִׂיתָ: |

לֹאתִבְנֶה בַיִת, לִשְׁמִי |

כִּי דָּמִים רַבִּים, |

שָׁפַכְתָּ אַרְצָה לְפָנָי. |

הִנֵּהבֵן נוֹלָד לָךְ, |

הוּא יִהְיֶה אִישׁ מְנוּחָה, |

וַהֲנִיחוֹתִי לוֹ |

מִכָּלאוֹיְבָיו, מִסָּבִיב: |

כִּי שְׁלֹמֹה יִהְיֶה שְׁמוֹ, |

וְשָׁלוֹם וָשֶׁקֶט |

אֶתֵּן עַליִשְׂרָאֵל בְּיָמָיו. |

הוּאיִבְנֶה בַיִת, לִשְׁמִי |

1 Chronicles 22:8-10a

There are those such as myself that do have hopes and aspirations for the future Temple, may it be rebuilt quickly in our days. But like King David we find ourselves in a precarious situation. The conquest of our country was not miraculous. The Jewish people used warfare, just like every other people under hostility and tyranny to establish themselves a home. Not just any wars, some of the most notorious wars of the modern age. We like David did not acquire our land with clean hands, in ways sanctified by religious rhetoric. We fought a secular fight; one that soiled our hands with the blood of war, and even yet we are not completely secure within our true boarders.

Our hands are not clean. Like David, it is good and well that we have these hopes and sentiments, but it is best that we keep them in our heart and not put them to action. This is our sentiment, even that of the most modern Religious Zionist. There are those of us who feel like we should have the right of any person to go and pray at the site. But we are not trying to destroy the site and establish a new presence. We have no religious pretext for such a move. We await the coming of a new generation of peace, that can accomplish this task of reestablishing this House of Prayer for all the Nations without violence and bloodshed.


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