January 30, 2014
Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)
Make For Me a Sanctuary
Parshat Trumah details the preparations necessary for the building of the Mishkan – Israel’s Sanctuary as they traveled through the desert.
There is a dispute among the Talmudic Sages and, as a consequence, among the Torah commentaries, when were the commandments for the Mishkan given to Moses. One opinion (the Ramban, for example) has it that the building of the Mishkan was commanded before the sin of the Golden Calf (as is the order of the parshiyot – Trumah comes before Ki Sisa, where the sin of the Golden Calf is mentioned).
The other opinion (Rashi, see Exodus 31:18) claims that the Mishkan laws came afterwards, and thus not in accordance with the order of the parshiyot – because as the Sages have said “ain mukdam um’uchar baTorah.” There is no “early” or “later” in the Torah – which means that chronological sequence is not always adhered to in the Torah.
Rashi’s view, that the laws and the conception of the Mishkan itself came after the sin of the Golden Calf, would lead to the idea that the Mishkan was offered as an atonement for that sin, and perhaps may never have been given, had the people not sinned. The necessity of having some concrete manifestation of God on earth among the people (in the form of a Sanctuary) was seen as a necessity only once they had sinned by making the Calf. This showed their need for some physical presence of the Almighty to which they could relate.
In light of the above, let us look at a brief Rashi-comment.
“And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.”
And they shall make for Me – RASHI: They shall make for My name’s sake a House of Holiness.
Rashi adds but one crucial word (in the Hebrew) “for My name’s sake.” He changes “for Me” to “for My name’s sake.”
Rashi sensed that one doesn’t make a Sanctuary for God. He neither needs it, nor could He possibly reside in it. As King Solomon said when he dedicated the Temple:
“Would God truly dwell on earth? Behold the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You, and surely not the Temple that I have built.” (Kings I, 8:27)
So Rashi had to interpret the Hebrew word “li” not as “for Me” but in another way.
Rashi reinterpreted the word “li” to mean “for My name’s sake.” Otherwise it would make no sense.
Rashi also adds the words “a house of holiness” as a substitute for the Hebrew Mikdash (Sanctuary). This may be necessary to make explicit what the word Mikdash means here, since the pagans also had their “holy places” but their worship in these places was far from holy.
“The poles must be in the rings of the Ark . They must not be removed from them.”
They must not be removed from them – RASHI: Forever.
How does Rashi know this? Maybe they may be removed when the Ark is not being transported, like the Table and the two altars. Surely, the poles were for transporting the Ark. When traveling, they would certainly put the poles in the rings to enable them to carry it. Why, then the need for the extra words “They should not be removed”?
Rashi is telling us that the extra words teach us that they may not be removed ever, even when the Ark was stationary. This is a separate mitzvah – never to remove these poles from their rings.
But we would ask: Why not? What is special here?
This separate command is given us for the Ark only, probably so that no mistake will ever be made regarding transporting it – the Ark must always be borne by people, not by a wagon or an animal.
With this we can now understand the parsha of Uzza.
1 Chronicles chap 13
13:9-10 And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.
“Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him.”
Many years ago, I heard a beautiful explanation from the late Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Harav Bezalel Zolti zatza”l.
For forty years in desert, the Israelites had carried the Ark on their shoulders (בכתף ישאו) without mishap. But now they arrived in the Land of Israel, times move on, new technology, new ways. So they decided to put the Holy Ark on a wagon drawn by oxen and of course the oxen stumbled.
The problem was Uzza’s perception. He thought that the Ark was stumbling so he put forth his hand to balance the Ark. A deeper investigation would have revealed that there was nothing wrong with the Ark, the problem was with the oxen, the method of transport.
He should have put forth his hand to balance the oxen or the cart.
The moral of the story is relevant today. The position of too many Jews is that we need to fix the Torah. It’s in danger of stumbling and not fitting in with our modern technological lifestyle. Whereas in reality there is nothing wrong with the holy Torah, which is Divine and eternal. Perhaps we should fix ourselves, our lifestyles and stop ourselves from stumbling……….?
Shabbat shalom and Chodesh tov
Rabbi Meir Wise