Should Our Ancestors Have Needed a Mishkan?

February 19, 2010

The order of the Biblical parshiyot from Schemot 25 through the end of that book presents a particular chronological and thematic challenge. In the parshiyot Terumah and Tetzaveh (chs. 25-30), G”d tells Moshe Rabbenu to command the Israelites to make a Mishkan, that G”d may reside in the Israelites’ midst. Then, in the beginning of Ki Tissa, the command is relayed to the people, and immediately afterwards the Torah reports the sin of the Golden Calf. Finally, in Vayaqhel and Piqudei(chs. 35-40), the work is carried out and brought to a successful completion.

This gives rise to a chronological question and a difficult philosophical corollary. Since Moshe ascended Mount Sinai when G”d spoke the Ten Utterances (erroneously known as Ten Commandments), and remained there for forty days, only coming down after the Golden Calf was celebrated, Shemot 31 could not have come before ch. 32! Read the rest of this entry »

Official vs Personal Ritual Observance

February 27, 2009

EnglishWhich kind of religious observance or experience is primary, the national, or the personal? Likewise, is the observance of the Law primary, despite the fact that it may take on a mechanical form, or the developing of deep religious feelings, buttressed by esoteric teachings?

Clearly, the dominant form of Jewish worship since the destruction of the second Beit haMiqdash has been personal, as the national cultic centre had been destroyed. And Judaism’s emphasis on laws, while not denying the role of religious experiences and concomitant emotions, clearly puts more weight on observance of the Law. But how are we to reconcile this attitude with the commandment to create a sancturay, as stated in Parshat Teruma וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתֹוכָם׃ – let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them (Shemot 25:8)?

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