Tag Archive

Tag Archives for " mishkan "

Motivating the People to Build the Tabernacle

Neat Building but not the Tabernacle

Neat Building but not the Tabernacle

Parashat VaYakhel – Pekudei 5772

Our tradition tells us that God forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf on Yom Kippur.

The next day Moshe gathered the people and told them about the Divine command to build the Tabernacle (Mishkan).

Some Answers to My Questions

Look at the post earlier this week if you want to see all the details of my questions. Here I’ll just present the essence of the questions that I try to answer.

Shemot 35:24

24 Everyone who set aside an offering of silver or copper brought the offering for the Lord, and everyone with whom acacia wood was found for any work of the service, brought it.

Acacia wood was used for the boards of the Mishkan. The boards were ten cubits tall and one and a half cubits wide. If a cubit is 20 inches, then these boards were almost 17 feet long.

Who in their right mind was carrying a bunch of 17-foot long boards through the desert?

I’ve wondered about this question for years, but I’ve never looked into it before.

Most of the commentators that I looked at don’t mention this issue at all. Ramban mentions that very few people had the acacia wood, but he does not go into more detail.

Rabbi Sorotzkin mentions a midrash that Yaakov took trees with him to Egypt that would eventually be used for the building of the tabernacle. When the Jewish people left Egypt just a few “unique individuals” brought those boards with them.

He mentions that some commentators suggest that the Jewish people found acacia trees growing on Har Sinai. He rejects this approach because the wording of the verse (“with whom acacia wood was found”) implies that certain people already had the wood in their possession.

Shemot 36:3-5

3 So they took from before Moses all the offering[s] that the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the Holy, and they brought him more gifts every morning.

4 Then all the wise men who were doing the work of the Holy came, each one from his work, which they had been doing.

5 And they spoke to Moses, saying: “The people are bringing very much, more than is enough for the labor of the articles which the Lord had commanded to do.”

What did Moshe say or do that so energized the people to give even more than what was needed?

Many people point to this verse and proclaim that this was the most successful fund raising campaign ever and will never be duplicated.

Maybe we can’t duplicate it, but I still think we can learn lessons learn from it.

Switch

I’m going to do something very dangerous. I’m going to suggest an answer based on a secular book that I recently read. I hope you’ll bear with me. :-)

The book is Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The subtitle is a good summary of the book: How to change things when change is hard.

They use a metaphor throughout the book to describe every person (that’s right, you and me are included here) who is trying to change anything.

Picture a Rider (the person’s rational side) on top of an Elephant (the person’s emotional side) moving along a Path (all the elements of the external environment).

Probably most of my readers will make the same mistake I did. Clearly, you’ll think, the Rider is the Yetzer HaTov and the Elephant is the Yetzer HaRa.

That’s what I first thought, but it’s not so simple. The Rider (as they explain it) has characteristics of both the Yetzer HaTov and the Yetzer HaRa. So does the Elephant.

The Rational Yetzer Hara

How can being cool, calm, and rational be part of the Yetzer Hara?

The rational side of the Rider can cause a person to over analyze a situation and be completely overwhelmed by all the different factors they are considering. This can lead to inaction.

Certainly, sometimes not acting is the proper choice. A person could be faced with an opportunity to perform one of their favorite sins. One strategy to avoid sinning is to tell yourself that you don’t have permission to perform that act right now. Tell the sin to come back the next day when you might have permission.

Does that sound weird? Yeah. But I’ve used it successfully more than once over the past year.

But there are instances when not acting plays into the hands of the Yetzer Hara. For example, people who don’t intervene even though they know abuse is occurring.

This frequently happens in cases of wife abuse and child abuse. Neighbors may be aware of the situation, but start rationalizing: I’m not sure … Maybe I’m overreacting … Maybe there is a perfectly logical explanation … If I say something maybe it will be lashon hara … What will happen if the police get involved? When the word spreads it will be a chillul Hashem …

We’ve all heard of such cases, some rather recently.

Applying the Framework

I want to use the framework of the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path to explain how Moshe got the people to donate generously to building the Tabernacle.

One aspect of the Rider is the tendency to over analyze. This can lead to analysis paralysis. An important tool to get the Rider to stop analyzing and start moving is to point to a clear destination. When the destination is clear, then there is no need to continue with the analysis and the Rider can move.

Moshe had such a destination. Build the Tabernacle. Here’s how to do it: gather these materials, construct these articles, follow these plans. Betzalel will be in charge of all the craftsmen.

The Elephant isn’t motivated by knowledge, but rather by feeling. Moshe was able to harness the people’s emotional side for this project.

The people knew that they had sinned with the Golden Calf. Before the sin they had been clearly aware of God’s presence. For example, at the crossing of the Sea they proclaimed (Shemot 15:2), “This is my God.” Our Sages say that God’s presence was so real at that moment that each person could (as it were) point at God as they sang “This is my God.”

Moshe’s now telling them that building the Tabernacle in the right way guarantees that God’s presence will once more be felt amongst them. That’s a motivating feeling.

The Path needs to be shaped in the way that makes the right action easy.

One way to shape the Path is to get lots of people to buy into a project. It can be easier to act when you are part of a crowd.

As this parasha begins (Shemot 35:1), “And Moshe assembled the entire congregation of the Children of Israel.”

Everyone was there. Everyone heard Moshe’s announcement.

I think another aspect of shaping the Path would have been the fact that people could bring their contributions each day. As the end of Shemot 36:3 says, “and they brought him more gifts every morning.”

As each person felt the motivation to contribute, the collection center was open and ready to receive their donation.

Summary

Like I wrote above, maybe we can’t duplicate the events in the Wilderness, but we can learn from them.

I think there is a lot of truth to the framework of the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path. Fund raisers and other communal leaders can apply it to their projects to make them more successful.

Your Turn

Please share your suggested answers in the comments.

Like what your read here? Please sign up for email updates to Thinking Torah.

I’ve finished writing my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi. You can get your copy by subscribing to Thinking Torah.

Picture credit Flickr.

Building the Tabernacle

Not the Building of the Tabernacle

Building the Tabernacle did not require so much extra support

Parashat VaYakhel – Pekudei 5772

Our tradition tells us that God forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf on Yom Kippur.

Moshe gathered the people and told them about the Divine command to build the Tabernacle (Mishkan).

In this parasha the Torah lists the parts of the Mishkan when:

  • Moshe tells the people what to build
  • The people build each portion of the Mishkan
  • Moshe provides an accounting of how the precious metals were used
  • God tells Moshe where to place each piece
  • Moshe erects the Mishkan for the first time.

My Questions

This week the verses that I’ve chosen are spread throughout the parasha. As is usual, the translation is from Judaica Press.

Shemot 35:24

24 Everyone who set aside an offering of silver or copper brought the offering for the Lord, and everyone with whom acacia wood was found for any work of the service, brought it.

I understand that the people had gold, silver, and copper to donate to the building of the Mishkan. Back in Shemot 11:2, the people were told to “borrow” gold and silver vessels from the Egyptians. I discussed this in Parashat Bo.

What I don’t understand is who brought with them acacia wood?!

Acacia wood was used for the boards of the Mishkan. The boards were ten cubits tall and one and a half cubits wide. If a cubit is 20 inches, then these boards were almost 17 feet long.

Who in their right mind was carrying a bunch of 17-foot long boards through the desert?

Shemot 36:3-5

3 So they took from before Moses all the offering[s] that the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the Holy, and they brought him more gifts every morning.

4 Then all the wise men who were doing the work of the Holy came, each one from his work, which they had been doing.

5 And they spoke to Moses, saying: “The people are bringing very much, more than is enough for the labor of the articles which the Lord had commanded to do.”

What did Moshe say or do that so energized the people to give even more than what was needed?

Shemot 38:21

21 These are the numbers of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were counted at Moses’ command; [this was] the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the Kohen.

Verses 38:21-31 recount how the gold, silver, and copper were used in building the Mishkan. We don’t see that Moshe was commanded to give such an accounting.

What motivated him to provide this accounting?

Shemot 39:43

43 Moses saw the entire work, and lo! they had done it, as the Lord had commanded, so had they done. So Moses blessed them.

What is the nature of the blessing that Moshe gave to the builders of the Tabernacle?

Shemot 40:36-38

36 When the cloud rose up from over the Mishkan, the children of Israel set out in all their journeys.

37 But if the cloud did not rise up, they did not set out until the day that it rose.

38 For the cloud of the Lord was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys.

We know that the Mishkan was built to be portable. But the first journey is not recorded until Sefer Bamidbar 10:11.

Why does the Torah talk about their journeying here? Also, similar verses are recorded in Bamidbar 9:15-23. The whole discussion seems to make more sense in Sefer Bamidbar just before the first journey.

Your Turn

Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.

Like what your read here? Please sign up for email updates to Thinking Torah.

I’ve finished writing my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi. You can get your copy by subscribing to Thinking Torah.

Picture credit Flickr.

 

Insights from the Kli Yakar

Menorah in Harbin Museum

Menorah in Harbin Museum of Jewish HIstory

Parashat Terumah 5772

From this parasha until the end of Sefer Shemot, the Chumash focuses on building and inaugurating the Mishkan (tabernacle).

Earlier this week I gave a brief introduction to the Mishkan.

Here is the translation of a few few verses from Judaica Press:

Shemot Chapter 25

Ark (Aron)

10 They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. …

13 And you shall make poles of acacia wood and you shall overlay them with gold.

14 And you shall bring the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.

15 The poles of the ark shall be in the rings; they shall not be removed from it.

Table (Shulchan)

23 And you shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits its length, one cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.

Menorah

31 And you shall make a menorah of pure gold. The menorah shall be made of hammered work; its base and its stem, its goblets, its knobs, and its flowers shall [all] be [one piece] with it. …

39 He shall make it of a talent of pure gold, with all these implements.

Shemot Chapter 27

Altar for Offerings

1 And you shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and its height [shall be] three cubits.

Shemot Chapter 30

Incense Altar

1 You shall make an altar for bringing incense up in smoke; you shall make it out of acacia wood.

2 It shall be one cubit long and one cubit wide, a square, and two cubits high; its horns shall be [one piece] with it.

The incense altar is mentioned in next week’s parasha, but it fits into the discussion here.

Measurements

How big is a cubit? The estimates range from 19 – 24 inches. To keep things simple, I will assume that one cubit is 20 inches.

Here are the dimensions of these vessels in cubits and (inches):

Length Width Height
Ark (Aron) 2.5 (50) 1.5 (30) 1.5 (30)
Table (Shulchan) 2.0 (40) 1.0 (20) 1.5 (30)
Menorah any any any
Altar 5.0 (100) 5.0 (100) 3.0 (60)
Incense Altar 1.0 (20) 1.0 (20) 2.0 (40)

Kli Yakar

I am going to do something different in this post. The best answer I found to several of my questions is in the commentary of the Kli Yakar.

I have translated excerpts from his commentary on Shemot 25:10.

My Translation

Before I speak about them (the vessels of the Mishkan) I will talk in a general way concerning the three principle vessels, each of which had a golden crown: the Ark, the Table, and the Incense Altar.

Our Sages said that they correspond to three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of Kingship, the crown of Priesthood.

The one who looks closely sees that these three vessels differ in their dimensions.

The Ark, all of its dimensions are “broken” (half measures). The Incense Altar, all of its dimensions are whole numbers. The Table, some are whole and some are halves.

Ark (Aron)

I say, based on what the Sages said, concerning character traits you should look above yourself. [That is, at a person who you respect for the perfection of their character and wisdom.]

By means of this he will see himself as lacking perfection and that he has not attained the level of his friend. He will then become jealous of him. This will motivate him to increase his wisdom, since jealousy amongst sages (concerning wisdom) leads to increasing wisdom.

But, concerning matters of this world, that is every physical attainment such as wealth and honor, he should look at one who is beneath him. With this he will rejoice in his portion when he sees that he has more than many other people.

Therefore, all the dimensions of the Ark were halves, to teach that every person should view himself as if he is lacking in complete wisdom and that he still needs to fill his deficiency…

That is, each partial dimension teaches about some deficiency that a person needs to rectify. The principle, “Where will wisdom be found?” (Iovy 28:12) concerns one who considers himself as being deficient.

One who is wise in his own eyes incorrectly evaluates himself, saying that he has already achieved the goal of wisdom. Who is wise? The one who learns from every person (Avot 4:1). That is, the one who evaluates himself as lacking in wisdom and that he needs to learn more.

Table (Shulchan)

The Table alludes to the Crown of Kingship and to all the material prosperity that the Jewish people merit from God’s table.

Some of its dimensions are whole numbers because every intelligent person should be happy with his portion and he should consider himself as if he has everything and that he is not lacking anything. …

However, some of its dimensions are “broken” (halves) to teach that a person should not completely satisfy every (legitimate) desire, rather he should break his desire.

The Altars

The Incense Altar and the Altar for Offerings, all of their dimensions are whole numbers. The purpose of each altar is to complete (reconcile) the person who is lacking because of his actions. That is, everything that comes to atone for a person eliminates his deficiencies.

The Altar for Offerings atones for the body of the sinner through offering the body of an animal.

The Incense Altar atones for the soul and Godly spirit which goes up like the smoke of the incense.

Therefore, all of their dimensions are whole numbers.

Your Turn

Please share your suggested answers in the comments.

Do you like what your read here? Please sign up for email updates to Thinking Torah.

I’m putting the finishing touches on my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi. I will be sending it to all subscribers once it is done.

Picture credit flickr.

Building the Tabernacle

Menorah

Parashat Terumah 5772

From this parasha until the end of Sefer Shemot, the Chumash focuses on building and inaugurating the Mishkan (tabernacle).

The Mishkan is the portable temple that the Jews were commanded to build in the desert. It was disassembled every time they moved from one camp to another and then rebuilt.

The main part of the Mishkan was a tent that was divided into two sections – the Holy and the Holy of Holies.

Inside the Holy of Holies was the ark (aron) which held the tablets that were given to Moshe.

Inside the Holy were the table (shulchan), the incense altar, and the menorah.

The tent was surrounded by a courtyard. In this courtyard were the altar for bringing animal offerings and a washbasin (kiyor).

I want to investigate a couple of ideas about the vessels that were part of the Mishkan.

Here is the translation of a few few verses from Judaica Press:

Shemot Chapter 25

Ark (Aron)

10 They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. …

13 And you shall make poles of acacia wood and you shall overlay them with gold.

14 And you shall bring the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.

15 The poles of the ark shall be in the rings; they shall not be removed from it.

Table (Shulchan)

23 And you shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits its length, one cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height.

Menorah

31 And you shall make a menorah of pure gold. The menorah shall be made of hammered work; its base and its stem, its goblets, its knobs, and its flowers shall [all] be [one piece] with it. …

39 He shall make it of a talent of pure gold, with all these implements.

Shemot Chapter 27

Altar for Offerings

1 And you shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and its height [shall be] three cubits.

Shemot Chapter 30

Incense Altar

1 You shall make an altar for bringing incense up in smoke; you shall make it out of acacia wood.

2 It shall be one cubit long and one cubit wide, a square, and two cubits high; its horns shall be [one piece] with it.

The incense altar is mentioned in next week’s parasha, but it fits into the discussion here.

Measurements

How big is a cubit? The estimates range from 19 – 24 inches. To keep things simple, I will assume that one cubit is 20 inches.

Here are the dimensions of these vessels in cubits and (inches):

Length Width Height
Ark (Aron) 2.5 (50) 1.5 (30) 1.5 (30)
Table (Shulchan) 2.0 (40) 1.0 (20) 1.5 (30)
Menorah any any any
Altar 5.0 (100) 5.0 (100) 3.0 (60)
Incense Altar 1.0 (20) 1.0 (20) 2.0 (40)

 

My Questions

Ark (Aron)

Why are none of its measurements whole numbers?

Shemot 25:15 Why are its poles never to be removed? There does not seem to be such a restriction with the other vessels.

Table (Shulchan)

Why are only two of its measurements whole numbers?

Why isn’t it as tall as the incense altar?

Menorah

Why doesn’t it have any measurements stated other than the amount of gold to be used?

Incense Altar

Why is this the tallest piece in the Mishkan?

Your Turn

Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.

Like what your read here? Please sign up for email updates to Thinking Torah.

I’m putting the finishing touches on my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi. I will be sending it to all subscribers once it is done.

Picture by  Shlomo Skinner, Sukkot 2009 in the Old City of Jerusalem.