Par­shah

Rabbi Aaron Katchen con­sid­ers the de­bate as to whether the To­rah is pre­sented in chrono­log­i­cal or­der or not Rabbi Michal Shekel pin­points the mo­ment when Jews went from be­ing com­manded to feel­ing com­manded Rabbi Howard Mor­ri­son re­calls a se­cret mis­sion he

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - Parshah -

Aaron Katchen

One of the most fa­mous medieval rab­binic de­bates cen­tres on the or­der­ing of the To­rah. Is the To­rah pre­sented in chrono­log­i­cal or­der, or does it jux­ta­pose events the­mat­i­cally? This week’s par­shah un­der­scores this de­bate, by pre­sent­ing the com­mand­ment to build the Mishkan (the mo­bile Taber­na­cle) be­fore the sin of the golden calf, which ap­pears later in the To­rah.

Rashi (12th-cen­try France) takes the view that the story of the golden calf pre­ceded the com­mand­ment to build the Mishkan. The sto­ries are the­mat­i­cally con­nected: gold given to build the calf and gold given to con­struct the Mishkan; the sin of­fer­ing af­ter the con­struc­tion of the Mishkan was to be a bull and a calf; the nar­ra­tive of the Mishkan in­di­cates a place where God can dwell among the peo­ple, as a re­sponse to the na­tion’s feel­ings of aban­don­ment that in­sti­gated the con­struc­tion of the calf.

The sin of the golden calf caused God’s pres­ence to leave the Jewish peo­ple, and the con­struc­tion of the Mishkan was so “that I will dwell in their midst” (Ex­o­dus 25:8).

The Ram­ban (13th-cen­tury Spain) con­sid­ers the To­rah to be pre­sented in or­der. The com­mand­ment to build the Mishkan was given as a place to house the Ark that holds the To­rah. Chrono­log­i­cally, the To­rah had just been given to the Jewish Peo­ple.

I had of­ten un­der­stood, based on Rashi, that if not for the sin of the golden calf, we would not have needed the Mishkan to con­nect with God. I now see that the need for a holy place, Mik­dash, was al­ways there. The ideal rea­son for the con­struc­tion was for the Jewish Peo­ple to have a way to seek God and ex­press their love and grat­i­tude to God. Af­ter the sin of the golden calf, the theme flipped, and the fo­cus be­came more about seek­ing for­give­ness from God, and bring­ing God back down to us af­ter our ac­tions sent God away.

Rabbi Aaron Katchen di­rects Ask Big Ques­tions Canada and is the rabbi at the Mizrachi Bayit in Toronto.

Michal Shekel

What you do changes you. This is true whether you par­tic­i­pate in a sin­gle event, such as the re­cent Rings of Peace that were formed around lo­cal mosques, or reg­u­larly vol­un­teer in a pro­gram such as Out of the Cold. Your ex­pe­ri­ence in­evitably en­riches your out­look on mat­ters and in­flu­ences your con­duct.

We are what we do, and it all started with the book of Sh­mot. My teacher, Rabbi Nor­man Co­hen, sum­ma­rized the book of Ex­o­dus by say­ing that it be­gins with our build­ing struc­tures for Pharaoh and ends with our build­ing a struc­ture for God: the Mishkan (Taber­na­cle).

The Taber­na­cle is so im­por­tant that pretty much the rest of the book of Ex­o­dus, some 15 chap­ters, is de­voted to its con­struc­tion. Com­pare this with a mere 31 verses re­count­ing the cre­ation of the world.

In Ex­o­dus 25:8, God com­mands us to build the Taber­na­cle by say­ing: “And let them make Me a sanc­tu­ary that I may dwell among them (be­tocham).” Nu­mer­ous com­men­ta­tors point out the sur­pris­ing use of the He­brew be­tocham, “within them.” It would make bet­ter sense if it read “be­to­cho,” mean­ing to dwell “within it.”

In To­rah To­day, Rabbi Pin­has Peli ex­plained that the pur­pose of our build­ing the Taber­na­cle was “to con­vert the peo­ple from pas­sive par­tic­i­pants in their re­la­tion­ship to the Lord, as con­stant re­cip­i­ents of His gifts, into ac­tive part­ners.”

Par­shat Trumah de­lin­eates the point where we have stopped work­ing for Pharaoh and are now serv­ing God. Be­tocham, dwelling “within them,” in­di­cates that we have in­ter­nal­ized God’s de­sire. We have gone from be­ing com­manded to feel­ing com­manded. In be­ing com­manded we per­form tasks be­cause we have to do so, be it hes­i­tantly or will­ingly. In feel­ing com­manded we seek out op­por­tu­ni­ties to do mitzvot, whole­heart­edly em­brac­ing our God-given tasks.

Rabbi Michal Shekel is the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Toronto Board of Rab­bis and spir­i­tual leader of Har Tik­vah Con­gre­ga­tion in Bramp­ton, Ont.

Howard Mor­ri­son

Par­shat Trumah brings back fond me­mories. My younger brother cel­e­brated his bar mitz­vah in the Bos­ton area by read­ing this par­shah. The ma­jor theme of Trumah can be spelled as ar­chi­tec­ture or “Ark – itec­ture.” The To­rah read­ing re­volves around the blue­print and de­sign for the Mishkan, the por­ta­ble Taber­na­cle. My fa­ther mar­velled at Trumah be­cause he was an ar­chi­tect by trade and was in­volved in the con­struc­tion of my child­hood sy­n­a­gogue.

On one Shab­bat in my child­hood shul, as the Ark was be­ing opened on Shab­bat, a To­rah scroll be­gan to fall out of place. For­tu­nately, the scroll was caught. A few nights later, my dad and I se­cretly went to the sy­n­a­gogue, and my fa­ther fas­tened golden link chains around each To­rah scroll. No one knew what he had done. On the fol­low­ing Shab­bat when the Ark was opened, the con­gre­ga­tion stood in awe as the glow of the golden link chains res­onated.

My fa­ther had do­nated golden chains to pre­serve the To­rahs in his sy­n­a­gogue. Par­shat Trumah be­gins by item­iz­ing dif­fer­ent lev­els of do­na­tions, be­gin­ning with gold, sil­ver and brass.

Our sages, of blessed mem­ory, point out that the He­brew words for these three sub­stances – za­hav, ke­sef,

ne­choshet – also serve as an ab­bre­vi­a­tion for the days on which the To­rah is read. The let­ters of za­hav are nu­mer­i­cally seven, five and two, the days of the week on which the To­rah is read. The let­ters in the words, ke­sef and

ne­choshet stand for the hol­i­days of the year on which the To­rah is read: (Yom) Kip­pur, Sukkot, Pe­sach/purim;

ner (the light of ) Chanukah, (Rosh) Chodesh, Shavuot, Sh­mini Atzeret, Sim­chat To­rah and taaniyot (the fast days).

As we read about the orig­i­nal build­ing plan for the first Jewish house of wor­ship, may we draw nearer to the Ark, the To­rahs within, and the timely and time­less lessons in our To­rah.

Rabbi Howard Mor­ri­son is se­nior rabbi – mara d’atra at Beth Emeth­bais Ye­huda Sy­n­a­gogue in Toronto.

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