Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah


When I was first ordained, it was still customary for rabbis to wear robes weekly on the bima. This practice was borrowed from Christian clergy style. But soon robes went out of style. They were thought by many to super-humanize the rabbi, making him/her seem like a special class of being—not human like everyone else. I stopped wearing the robe except on the Days of Awe when the theme of the season is purification and white the color. Most of Torah portion Tetzaveh is devoted to detailed descriptions of the beautiful garments worn by the ancient priests. They were amazingly colorful and decorative, including "a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe." (Ex 28:34) It must have been a feast for the eyes to see the priests dressed for their duties. But the priests were clearly meant to have been elevated above regular Israelites. With the destruction of the Temple, the sages determined that rabbis would lead the Jewish community-- teachers and scholars, who were like Israelites in every way, except their greater knowledge of text and tradition. For this, special garments were not needed.

Exodus 27:20−30:10

In this week's parasha, Moses receives from God instructions for building the Mishkan, or portable Tabernacle, for worshiping God during the wilderness journey to the Land of Israel. Because a great amount of detail is given regarding dimensions, materials, utensils, and more, many commentators have attempted to explain the symbolism of all that went into the Mishkan. The great Jewish historian of the Roman era, Josephus, explained that the 12 loaves of bread symbolized the 12 months; the 7 lamps, the sun, moon and 5 planets known at that time; and the four materials in the curtain, the four elements, of earth, fire, wind and water. (Antiquities III 7:7)

Exodus 25:1−27:19

At the end of this week's parasha, after Moses shares with the people of Israel a long list of laws that he received from God, Moses is summoned once again to the top of the mountain along with Aaron, his sons Nadab and Abihu, and the 70 elders. Surprisingly, it is stated in the Torah that all 74 of them "saw the God of Israel." (Ex 24:10) However, elsewhere we read that only Moses saw God "face to face." (Deut 34: 10) But this is not a contradiction with what is written here because it seems that those on the mountain in Mishpatim only see God's divine feet : "...under His feet there was likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity." (Ex 24:10). These are metaphors for God, but they are descriptions that have led many to cling to simplistic and child-like images of God as having human form. Others, regrettably, reject the idea of God altogether because they think that this anthropomorphic view is the only Jewish idea of God. On the contrary, most Jewish God ideas, from ancient times until now, are more abstract and spiritual and fit with many of our contemporary views.

March FOOD OF THE MONTH: Canned Fruit packed in juice

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URJ Weekly Torah Commentary

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