Saturday, March 08, 2008

DVAR TORAH S3: Pekudei/Chazak/Shabbat Rosh Chodesh/Shekalim (bittersweet completion)

This Dvar Torah is dedicated to the memory of the seminarians murdered yesterday in the terrorist attack in the Holy City yesterday. May their memories be for a blessing and may the Omnipresent comfort their families and us among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

We have upon us a very interesting Shabbat. Outside of the holiday of Simchat Torah, there are three occasions I can think of when we would need to read from three Torahs: when Rosh Chodesh Tevet, Adar (II in leap years, as this one), or Nisan fall on Shabbat. On these Shabbats, in addition to the regular Torah reading, for which we read the sixth and seventh aliyot together as the sixth, we read a passage from Pinchas for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh from the second Torah, and from a third we also need to read the special reading for that day of Hanukkah, the reading for Shabbat Shekalim, and the reading for Shabbat HaChodesh respectively as the Maftir. While this is an exciting time on the rare occasion when it happens, the Torah cycle happens to have us at one of the four weeks of the year when we conclude one of the books of the Torah (the conclusion of the fifth book, Deuteronomy is always on Simchat Torah anyway), so after the sixth aliyah we will happily recite "Chazak! Chazak! V'Nitchazek!", "strength, strength, and we shall be strengthened!"

This aforementioned phrase is recited as we complete a book of the Torah, in great joy. This year it also coincides on the day when we are commanded in the Talmud to increase our joy. As Adar is entered, joy is increased (as we sing endlessly Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B'Simcha) (Babylonian Talmud Ta'anit 29a).

There is something else completed here. In a parasha devoid of Mitzvot (according to Rambam which in turn is according to Wikipedia) Moses completes the Mishkan. There are many feelings that one may simultaneously go through when they complete something on which they've been working hard and for a long time. There is a sense of accomplishment and pride at having been able to overtake a task so daunting, and yet some wistfulness edging on sadness on not having it anymore to work on. Not that I'm an expert, and l'havdil, but some women following pregnancies will be so happy to have a new baby and yet go through something called post-partum depression. Again l'havdil, but if I'm working on a long paper (and I have many on which I should be working right now...) I may punish my self to continue working on it and refining it. I wrote a poem last week for an underground night (which can be found here on the Philolexian Socity Phlog). I continued writing and refining the ten syllable-per-line poem until I was at 18 quatrains (72 lines). A couple of minutes before the event I added two more quatrains for good measure, resulting in 20 quatrains, 80 lines, a total of 800 syllables. I would have added more to the ending, but decided against it. I kept trying to perfect it. Polishing silver and scrubbing metal too much will ruin it, as I learned the hard way with a kiddish cup and one of meat pans respectively. And yet the Mishkan was perfect. It didn't have hte limitations of the human devices, but rather was a perfect structure with its instructions sent by God to divinely-inspired humans (sort of like the Torah *cough* JEPD, *cough*). Betzalel and Oholiab themselves didn't need Moses' instructions because they were also transmitted perfectly directly from God to them and Moses was able to, in a single sweep, put the entire building together.

That being said, it is nothing but a building without people. As I quoted a few weeks ago (Trumah), v'asu li mikdash v'shachanti btocham, make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them. "Them" being the people Israel. In the next few weeks in the book of Leviticus we will discuss their role in the Tabernacle. In the house of gold, silver, and, um, dolphin skins dyed red we don't truly have perfection until we have the people Israel involved. Stay tuned.

I will leave you the closing prayer I gave to my Talmud class yesterday. Mishenichnas Adar Marbin b'Simcha. May we no longer have reason for sorrow but only have occasion for joy and happiness. Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov.

1 comment:

Abigail said...

Did you know we got two feet of snow out here in Cleveland? So for the awesomeness of three Torahs, we had about fifteen people. We didn't think we'd even get a minyan.

I read 5 aliyot, the maftir, and the haftarah because a) the snow kept someone away, and b) my synagogue isn't particularly well-organized, so no one was assigned to read Shekalim. Duh.