Torah Study Notes 2-1-14

February 1, 2014
p. 545
The Mishkan or Tabernacle. See diagram on page 544. This is a very detailed description of what is to be constructed. At the time this was written Solomon’s Temple was already in existence – a fixed monumental structure. Here we are given the description of a portable structure – but still elaborate. Nevertheless the narrator likely draws upon what he sees as the basis for this description. All the remainder of the Book of Exodus is focused on the building of the tabernacle, the vestments of the priest, and the furniture. The exception is the story of the Golden Calf. The Israelites are camped at the base of Mt. Sinai. Note that the Torah as we know it is generally considered to have been assembled after the return from Babylon. See Friedman “Who Wrote the Bible?”
Ezra and Nehemiah had major roles. Now we have the notion of a “portable” God so that “I may dwell among you.” The notion that the God of Isaac was elsewhere than in a single location is demonstrated in the account of Jacob’s Ladder. This is an important part of the sequence leading to the notion of the ubiquity of God. See Jeffery Tigay on the Gilgamesh legends and their connection to the old testament.
LL: This is all a radically different paradigm from other countries and peoples that had a fixed political location. History was not as important to them – only power and authority. As a result they frequently tried to destroy all traces and accounts of prior dynasties. This happened in China and at least twice in Egypt. It was a common phenomenon during the Roman Empire.
23:10 poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold. EL: Why was it so elaborate? Why the use of gold? CL: it would always shine and was very malleable. Acacia repels insects – very dense. PJ: Why would the poles remain in the rings all of the time? PG: Immediate portability. The writer may also be familiar with the story of Noah and his “ark” as compared to this one. But the Hebrew “aron” is actually a closet whereas in Noah it is a “tabeh” – a large floating object. SF: there is a paradox here: there is considerable work associated with portability and easier to have one central location. PG: Consider Mohammed’s instruction to pray toward Mecca – even though God is everywhere. This is an attempt to deal with this paradox of ubiquity and a single location.
Note that Shomre’s ark is on the east side of the Temple whereas Beth El is on the west. East is traditional if one iis to pray toward Jerusalem. Vassar Temple’s is on the west wall. The alcove is a mosque faces exactly toward Mecca. Prayer rugs are usually designed with a similar niche.
23:17 A cover of pure gold. The cherubim protect the ark. They have wings and faces but their antecedent is unknown today. There is speculation about their role in the Zohar.

CL: This is reminiscent of the tomb of Tutankhamen which had figures in the corners and a winged figure on his pectoral. His sarcophagus also has the elements of face and wings – and that is considerably earlier. PG: There are likely antecedents that were used to indicate the presence of a deity – avatars of God – like the visitors of Abraham, or the figure that wrestles with Jacob. In Ezekial and Isaiah there is reference to “the heavenly host.” These are figures clearly independent of God – more than a manifestation. There is a tendency to fill in the chain of being between Man and God with other figures. SF: See: Rabbi Lozado and “the divine bureaucracy.” (LL: I could not find a reference to this on line) Note that the ark in a modern temple will never replicate the ark in Solomon’s Temple. This description is reserved for one place.

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