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{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

“All this I tested with wisdom. I thought I could fathom it, but it eludes me (Ecclesiastes 7:23),” is understood by the Midrash as Solomon’s experience attempting to comprehend the secrets of the Parah Adumah, The Red Heifer, of which we will sing this Shabbat.

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Rashi opens his commentary on these mysteries, “Because Satan will taunt Israel, saying, ‘What is this commandment? What is the reason for it?’ Therefore, the Torah describes it as a Statute. I have decreed it and you are not permitted to question it (Numbers 19:1)!” The Divrei David understands Rashi as warning us to not even attempt to understand it!

As far as a certain little boy was concerned, this was a gauntlet thrown before him. When the teacher reached the Rashi that offers the insights of Rav Moshe haDarshan (End of verse 22), it was war, “Rashi’s trying to understand it!” When said teacher shared a promise, “When a perfect Red Heifer is born, the Messiah will come,” the angry boy knew that he could turn only to his father zt”l to explain. He walked out of school, took a bus home, walked to the Yeshiva, burst into his father teaching and demanded an explanation, “You taught me there is no magic! What is this?”

“Do you understand that it is magic for a father to hear such a question? Torah that does not lead to such magical questions is not Torah.”

I hear my father speaking of his magical experience upon hearing a question whenever I hear someone teaching concepts that are beyond comprehension. A Kabbalist scribbling something on a paper and authoritatively informing me of what I must do to fix my soul, refusing to explain, I feel that all the magic is his, without nurturing any internal awareness. The only magic I seek is internal. I don’t want anyone to speak to me about the mysteries of each Mitzvah without triggering internal development. A teacher who answers a question with, “Because God said so,” is, in my mind, an anti-Red Heiferist, an anti-Statuist!

The Tabernacle was more dangerous than the Red Heifer because absolutely everything about its construction and functioning seems so mysterious. Moses and Betzalel broke the magical spell when they collected the donations for the Mishkan’s construction: At the conclusion of the most successful fundraising campaign in history, “Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring for any of the Melacha-work that God had commanded to make, through Moses, the Children of Israel brought a Free-Willed Offering to God (Exodus 25:29).” The people perceived their offerings as “for the Melacha-work.” There was a disconnect between my donation and its results. There was an opening for a Magical Spell; those voices that teach service of God as mysterious and a step removed from my work.

“The Melacha-work was sufficient for all the Melacha-work, and there was extra (36:7).” The donations are described as actual Melacha-work, not as for the work. The gifts were considered the same level of Thought Guided Purposeful Creativity as the actual weaving, smelting, tanning, and baking necessary for the Mishkan’s construction. The Siftei Kohen explains that Betzalel, instructed by God in all Melacha (35:31) so treasured and honored each gift that each person experienced understood the role his or her donation played in the Tabernacle. The magic of the Tabernacle was not hidden behind its mysterious walls and curtains. The magic began in the hearts of each person seeking to understand and appreciate his role in building a House for God.

The magic is not in the distant mysteries, but in the questions and quests triggered within our hearts. The magic is not found in the Kabbalist, but in the heart of the seeker of direction. Only the teacher who triggers magical questioning has touched the magical mysteries of the Parah Adumah.

Shabbat offers its magic only to those who have experienced the essence of Melacha-work as taught by Moses and Betzalel. We enter Shabbat treasuring and honoring our work and development over the past week. It is to that awareness that Shabbat offers its magic to discover more of our internal magic.

Shabbat Shalom,

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