Parshat Pekudei, 2nd Portion, Exodus 39:2-21, March 7, 2016
“And its decorative band, which is above it, [emanated] from it, of the same work: gold, blue, purple, and crimson wool, and twisted fine linen as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Exodus 39-5)
The last five words, “as the Lord had commanded Moses,” would be the hardest for me to explain to my grandkids. Moses went up the mountain for 40 days. During this time, the Lord had supposedly spoken with Moses, who in turn, retained an enormous amount of detail.
Some people believe that this actually occurred. Others take it as a story. Did Geppetto really make a puppet called Pinocchio that came to life? As it says in Wikopedia, it is a fantasy film.
One could say that the Torah is a fantasy just the same. If so, does the Torah have any special meaning that the story of Pinocchio does not have? Is there more wisdom in the Torah than in any number of great books? Do we have characters to emanate, or do we just learn by watching their imperfections (that we also get from newspapers).
Some teachings are important just because they are the cement that brought people together. So it is more than just a fantasy in that sense. Just like the story of how your parents met is important as one defines who they were, so is the Torah important because people took it seriously and followed its instructions.
I don’t follow the instructions when I make art of using twisted fine linen, and I don’t follow the sabbath (so far), but I do try to pay attention to my practices. For example, I carefully cleaned the glass on my scanner. I try to reread what I write to cut down on the parts that are hard to read (I miss some too). I don’t believe in a God that talks to men and tells them what to do. I do believe that there are lessons to be learned about working in such a way that you are saying thank you to the universe for giving us such a rich life.
If we just made a simple mud shack, and expected to feel the presence of God in it, would it work? Maybe. But going to extremes, as in building a beautiful exquisite Tabernacle, makes it a little easier to see it as an offering to something much greater than ourselves.
In Japanese Tea Ceremony, we hand a bowl of tea to a guest with two hands. We don’t take a bowl for ourselves. We bow to them. This is the kind of attention and reverence that the Israelites built into Tabernacle. It was a prayer that they made with their entire attention. The words weren’t mindlessly mouthed and voiced. They were felt through and through.