Friday, February 20, 2015

The only three thoughts you need to enjoy Parshas Terumah

Terumah is one of a few parashot that we moderns find mind-numbingly boring. The whole thing reads like a construction plan. What's the point? And I say this as someone who does not dislike HGTV. Still, all that endless detail about hooks and rings and curtains... it's a little much, no?

Here are the thoughts that come back to me every year as I suffer through the tedium:

  • If you're a low life apikores seeking some confirmation that the Sages were not like you and me, consider this: Not only did the great men of Jewish letters survive several readings of Trumah they also composed skillfully brilliant interpretations of it.
  • Might Robert Alter be right? He speculates that the construction descriptions were actually exciting to ancient audiences, perhaps because they enjoyed hearing about the lavish accouterments. In his analysis, Terumah is shelter porn  Consider his long essay [here page 304] which says that to an ancient audience the pageantry of Trumah (with Tezaveh) was every bit as exciting as a car chase is to us.
  • Might Martin Buber be right? He has identified a network of parallels - magic number 7 in all - between the language and terms used to describe the building of the sanctuary, and the words used in Genesis for the creation of the world. I haven't thought it through yet, but present the associations he discovered (as cited by Nechama Leibowitz in Studies on Exodus, 479-81) for your review:
1. And God made the firmament (Gen 1:7).
And God made the two great lights (Gen 1:16).
And God made the beasts of the earth (Gen 1:25). (etc. 200 times)
And let them make me a sanctuary (Ex 25:8).
And let shall make an ark (Ex 25:10).
And you shall make a table (Ex 25:23).
And you shall make a candlestick of pure gold (Ex 25:31). (etc. seven times) 
2. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in
them (Ex 20:11).
And the glory of the Lord dwelt upon Mt. Sinai and the cloud covered it six days
(Ex 24:16). 
3. And rested on the seventh day (Ex 20:11).
And the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud (Ex
4. And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them and on
the seventh day God finished his work which he had made (Gen 2:1-2). 
5. And God saw every thing that he had made (Gen 1:31).
And Moses saw all the work (Ex 39:43).
6. And behold it was very good (Gen 1:31).
And, behold, they had done it; as the Lord commanded, even so and they done it (Ex 39:43).
7. And God blessed the seventh day (Gen 2:3).
And Moses blessed them (Ex 39:43).

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