Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Parshat Terumah, 4th Portion, Exodus 26:15-30, February 10, 2016

“And you shall make the planks for the Mishkan of acacia wood, upright.” (Exodus 26:15)

“The Hebrew word for “acacia” (shitah) means “bending.” The acacia tree is called the “bending” tree because it bends to the side as it grows, rather than growing straight up. The Hebrew word for “foolishness” (shetut) is another form of this word, since foolishness is an act of “bending” from the path dictated by logic.”

There is lots to play with here. First, using a bending wood, upright, to make walls? Maybe it was the only wood available... but it seems to go against its nature. Do we go against our nature when we are upright?

Bending seems to me about mercy. Justice is upright. An eye for an eye. The scales of justice, when fulfilled, are not bending. Compassion bends. We care and we sometimes go overboard to give to someone who is in need. That is bending, as in bending over for a kid, an animal or someone who is sick.

And then there is the idea of foolishness. According to article cited above, there are two types of foolishness—holy and unholy. Unholy foolishness is when we go against God, like when we make a golden calf and worship it as an idol. But holy foolishness is when we recreate the torah (with a small t). It is when we define our particular path for faith. How can I connect with the universe in a compassionate and loving manner? Holy and foolishness are almost opposites. To build an upright wall from a bending tree is holy foolishness. We take our lives, bending, and make them worthy of a temple for God. Much cooler than using a straight piece of wood for a straight wall. Isn’t it?

They say that there are no extraneous words in the Torah. Is “upright” extraneous? Are walls anything but “upright.” Is it “holy foolishness” to use a bent piece of wood upright to make a home for God? Are we bent pieces of wood who stand upright to God (I meditated for an hour tonight and I kept thinking of all the ramifications of the instruction “upright.” I wanted to take notes... but that wouldn’t be “upright.” That would be “unholy foolishness.”)

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