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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Ki Tisa’

“The People Shall Rise Up Like a Lion!”

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

For several weeks now, my younger children have been gathering tree branches, logs, and wooden crates for their Lag B’Omer bonfires. I don’t know how they do it, but they work like skilled engineers, erecting teepee-shaped towers that rise thirty-feet high into the sky. The heat of the blaze is so intense, I have to be careful that my beard doesn’t catch on fire. The incredible wonder of Lag B’Omer in Israel is like nowhere else in the world. Not only are the hillsides of Jerusalem ablaze with towering bonfires in tribute to the great light of Torah that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed; not only are the streets of Jerusalem inundated with the smoke of burning embers; but hillsides and streets all over the country are lit up with the fiery love of Torah which kindles in every heart. Not only the streets, my friends, but the smoke of these holy bonfires penetrates into every single apartment and house, like the aroma of incense on the Temple’s altar, penetrating through windows and concrete walls to reveal the inner spirit of every Israeli soul, of every Israeli home, revealing the secret, inner holiness of the entire country of Israel whose National Soul is completely Torah, no matter how secular its surface appearances seem.

This recognition is doubly important today, in the wake of Israel’s expanding secular government, when it seems that the light of Torah is being threatened. Not so. Lag B’Omer, and the holy Zohar, which it commemorates, teach us to look more deeply into the essence of our Nation’s soul.

This is what Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught us – to see below the surface appearance to the inner reality, where the light of Israel shines in an eternal, unquenchable blaze.

Rabbi Kook encouraged the learning of the Zohar and said it was precisely its study which would forge a pathway to Redemption in helping us to uncover the great hidden light of Israel (Orot HaTechiya 57; Zohar, Parshat Naso 124B).

Inspired by the light of the Zohar, Rabbi Kook writes: 

Out of the profane, holiness will also come forth, and out of wanton freedom, the beloved yoke (of Torah) will blossom…. Let the bud sprout, let the flower blossom, let the fruit ripen, and the whole world will know that the Spirit of G-d is speaking within the Nation of Israel in its every expression. All of this will climax in a repentance which will bring healing and redemption to the world” (Orot HaT’shuva, 17:3).

Indeed, the revival of the Jewish Nation in Israel is a wonder that is impossible to explain in any mundane fashion. Clearly, there are powerful inner forces at work as we return to our homeland. Increasingly sensitized to our own national longings, we realize that gentile lands cannot be called home. The process takes time. The nation is not transformed overnight. But gradually, the curse of exile is erased. From being a scattered people, the Israeli Nation returns to have its own sovereign state. God’s blessing is revealed in all facets of the Nation’s existence; military success, economic prosperity, scientific achievement, the resettlement of the Nation’s ancient cities and holy sites — all ultimately leading to a great national t’shuva, the renewal of prophecy, and the return of the Divine Presence to the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, in fulfillment of our prayers.

Rabbi Kook explains that the secular, physical rebuilding which we have witnessed in our time must necessarily precede the spiritual building. The Talmud teaches that the Beit HaMikdash was first constructed in a normal, profane manner, and only after its completion was its sanctity declared (Me’ilah 14A). This is the pattern of spiritual building; first comes the physical vessel, and then its inner content. First the Ark is constructed, and then the Tablets are placed within.

Rabbi Lord Sacks: The Tabernacle’s Lesson

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

As soon as we read the opening lines of Parshat Terumah we begin the massive shift from the intense drama of the Exodus, with its signs and wonders and epic events, to the long, detailed narrative of how the Israelites constructed the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary that they carried with them through the desert.

By any standards it is a part of the Torah that cries out for explanation. The first thing that strikes us is the sheer length of the account: one third of the book of Shemot, and five parshiyotTerumah, Tetzaveh, half of Ki Tisa, Vayakhel and Pekudei, interrupted only by the story of the Golden Calf.

This becomes even more perplexing when we compare it with another act of creation, namely G-d’s creation of the universe. That story is told with the utmost brevity: a mere 34 verses. Why take some 15 times as long to tell the story of the Sanctuary?

The question becomes harder still when we recall that the mishkan was not a permanent feature of the spiritual life of the children of Israel. It was specifically designed to be carried on their journey through the wilderness. Later, in the days of Solomon, it would be replaced by the Temple in Jerusalem. What enduring message are we supposed to learn from a construction that was not designed to endure?

Even more puzzling is the fact that the story is part of the book of Shemot. Shemot is about the birth of a nation; hence Egypt, slavery, Pharaoh, the Plagues, the Exodus, the journey through the sea, and the covenant at Mount Sinai. All these things would become part of the people’s collective memory. But the Sanctuary, where sacrifices were offered, surely belongs to the book of Vayikra, otherwise known as Torat Kohanim, or Leviticus, the book of priestly things. It seems to have no connection with Exodus whatsoever.

The answer, I believe, is profound.

The transition from the books of Bereishit to Shemot, Genesis to Exodus, is about the change from family to nation. When the Israelites entered Egypt they were a single extended family. By the time they left they had become a sizeable people, divided into 12 tribes plus an amorphous collection of fellow travelers known as the erev rav, the mixed multitude.

What united them was a fate. They were the people whom the Egyptians distrusted and enslaved. The Israelites had a common enemy. Beyond that they had a memory of the patriarchs and their G-d. They shared a past. What was to prove difficult, almost impossible, was to get them to share responsibility for the future.

Everything we read in Shemot tells us that, as is so often the case among people long deprived of freedom, they were passive and they were easily moved to complain. The two often go together. They expected someone else, Moses or G-d himself, to provide them with food and water, lead them to safety, and take them to the Promised Land.

At every setback, they complained. They complained when Moses’s first intervention failed: “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Exodus 5:21).

At the Red Sea they complained again: “They said to Moses: Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert” (Exodus 14:11-12).

After the division of the Red Sea, the Torah says: “When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and believed in him and in Moses his servant” (Exodus 14:31). But after a mere three days they were complaining again. There was no water. Then there was water but it was bitter. Then there was no food.

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3).

Soon Moses himself is saying, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me” (Exodus 17:4).

By now G-d has performed signs and wonders on the people’s behalf, taken them out of Egypt, divided the sea for them, given them water from a rock and manna from heaven – and still they do not cohere as a nation. They are a group of individuals, unwilling or unable to take responsibility, to act collectively rather than complain.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-tabernacles-lesson/2012/02/22/

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