Torah Study Notes 2-25-12

February 25, 2012
Next week at Bethel for the Shabbaton. Visiting Rabbi Alice Goldstein will talk about the different approaches to scripture by men and woman.
Last week Moses told the people that he was ascending the mountain and would be there for 40 days. He is receiving instructions for the construction of a mishkan – an “indwelling place”” or tabernacle that will hold the Torah and be a space for offerings. See schematic p. 544
26:31 A detailed description. It is believed that this text was prepared at the time of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Friedman suggests that the mishkan was re-built in that Temple. SF: What was the intent of the redactors here? What were they trying to do? PG: At the time this was committed to writing, between 900 and 600, the Temple in Jerusalem existed. SF: But this is about the creation of sacred space. PG: It is also a description of a real physical object – something that has been physically relocated to the Temple. The Torah became “popularized” after the return from Babylonia – between 550 and 450. At that time the mishkan as described no longer existed. The 2nd Temple is being built – it doesn’t have the ark or the tent but it reinforces and recreates the notion of Zion – a complex theology in which there is a place for Israelites to go to encounter God. Yet there is no indication that this was actually recreated in the 2nd Temple. The message is that Jews can be Jews wherever they gather by focusing on the writing rather than the alter and upon Jerusalem as a place of worship. Early synagogues demonstrate floor plans that had no particular orientation toward Jerusalem or fixed location for the ark. Now it is usually on the eastern wall – or the direction of Jerusalem. In Bombay the ark is on the western wall of the synagogue. CL: All of the major ancient cultures had permanent temples – the notion of portability here is somewhat puzzling. PG: The notion is built into the story of Abraham – who built a new altar at whatever location he felt the presence of God. Paradoxically the inner sanctum is only accessible by the high priest once a year. LL: This lends an element of mystery which is an inherent part of religion.PG: But it is important to note that the designation of a sacred place is not arbitrary – it is the place “that I will show you.” CL: Temples historically have also been a statement of the power of the state. PG: Martin Buber made the point that the association of the king with god is always fraught with problems.
26:36 RR: Is this the back story of why they had to take all of the gold and silver out of Egypt? (See below)
27:1 More detailed description of the altar. Suggests a high level of available craftsmanship. CL: Egypt was known for its gold. These details are very useful for art historians. Note the relative absence of silver in the descriptions – much more is made of gold and copper. See reference to 40 silver sockets. There may also be a translation issue as to the word for bronze. Consider the role of the story in molding our thinking: Egypt is the evil empire ala Star Wars. When the Egyptians perish we cheer – just as we did for the Death Star. Hence the redactors came up with a reason for taking all of the gold from the Egyptians – due and owing back pay.
27:9 This is the outer enclosure – made out of cloth. Note that there is no roof. Like a construction site this outer enclsoure stops people from wandering into a potentially dangerous zone – because of the presence of God. Holiness takes two forms – kadosh and kodesh. The barrier separates that which is intrinsically holy from what is contingent holiness. SF: There is a psycho-sexual element here. This layering of access is analogous to the body of a woman. Compare the work of Mary Douglas on this subject – also Vita Zornberg. PG: There are fundamental notions of creativity and birth here. Some societies become very anxious about this. As sex becomes more holy there is more celibacy. In Judaism this anxiety is manifested by the notion of “family purity.” So that men and woman cannot come into contact for a period of time during which the woman is deemed to be “unclean.”

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