Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Forgiven Love - A Parable

The last parasha (weekly Torah reading) of the Book of Exodus focuses almost exclusively on the conclusion of the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Already though, a fair number of biblical chapters have been dedicated to the commandment to make the Mishkan and the detailed instructions therein. So, what is the purpose of describing everything that had been done and (as is recorded in the second half of Exodus 38) how much of each material had been used?

Within the Biblical commentaries, there are many discussions regarding the meaning of the Mishkan. One of the most poetic may also be seen as an explanation as to why this concluding description is significant enough to mark the end of the Book of Exodus. The Mishkan is referred to in Exodus 38:21 as Hamishkan Haeidut, the Tabernacle of the Testimony. Rabbi Shimon ben Rabbi Ishmael explains that the “testimony” of the tabernacle serves as witness to the whole world that God forgave the Children of Israel for the transgression of the Golden Calf (Exodus Rabbah 51:4). Rabbi Isaac explains it with the following parable: “ A king took a wife whom he dearly loved. One day, he became angry with her and left her. Her neighbors taunted her, saying that he would not return. Then the king sent her a message asking her to prepare the king's palace and make the beds there, for he was coming back to her on such-and-such a day. On that day, the king returned to her and became reconciled to her, entering her chamber and eating and drinking with her. Her neighbors at first did not believe it, but when they smelled the fragrant spices, they knew that the king had returned” (Ibid.).

While God was angry with the Israelites, He had them make the Mishkan as a physical sign to all the other nations that He had forgiven the people and had returned to dwell among them. The purpose of the constant repetition of the details of the Mishkan, and going so far in the biblical accounting to record  the amount of each material, is to show how the Jewish people continually express their joy that God forgave such a grave sin and that Israel remains His truly beloved nation.

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