Friday, February 25, 2011

TERUMAH: WHO'S THEM?

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Is G*d's holy presence reserved solely for Israel? Or may others who recognize G*d's Oneness and Uniqueness also maintain a connection to Him? Is the manifestation of G*d's Presence, the Shekhina, an exclusive club, or does G*d's love extend to all the righteous among the nations of the world? The answer is subtlely revealed depending on how we read the text.

EXODUS 25:8 says "v'asu li miqdash veShachanti betocham." Chazal, the sages of blessed memory teach that it means, "and they will make for Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell among them." Well it can also be read differently, with very different implications. Instead of reading asu in the third person plural, we can also read it in the second person plural imperative. Thus it can also be read as "and you (plural) will make for me a sanctuary and I shall dwell among them." If the you is plural, i.e., referring to the B'nei Yisrael, the Children of Israel, then the verse can only make sense if the word "them" refers to some other group. But to whom?

Whereas the first reading implies "them" to be the Children of Israel, the second reading implies another recipient of G*d's Indwelling Presence: the Righteous Among the Nations, the Tzadikei Umos HaOlam. This second reading allows us to celebrate a universalistic interpretation of G*d's mission vis a vis the chosen nation of Israel. The sanctuary, eventually to become the Beis HaMiqdash, is to serve as a locus and focus of holiness both for Israel and the world at small (it was once large in the imagination, but no longer/and Israel was once small in the imagination, but no longer).

The Temple offerings served to bring atonement not only to Israel but for all the world as well. This concept is pointedly evidenced by the seventy bullocks offered at the Festival of Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles. Each of the atonement offerings corresponded to each of the proverbial seventy nations of the world, the Shivim Umos HaOlam. It has even been said that had the Romans known how our Holy Temple was for their benefit, they would have never destroyed it. But indeed the concept of a transnational deity was entirely foreign to their way of thinking.

Therefore, when we read about the construction of the mishkan, the holy tabernacle, we should be inspired to reflect upon how revolutionary was the Jewish idea, that the G*d of Israel transcends all borders, all nations, all races and creeds. As the G*d of Israel made His home among Israel, so that His word and message could be spread among all the earth, so too would His Temple, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, one day be a House of Prayer for all the nations - "Ki beisi Beis Tefillah, yikarei lechol he'amim."

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000-2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l. And in the merit of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther Bat Baruch, z"l.

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me, and was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!