Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Muse: Tetzaveh 2009

“I will sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the altar…I will abide among the Israelites and I will be their God and they shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out from the Land of Egypt that I might abide by them, I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29: 44-46)

So, in our text it appears as though God can reduce himself to those dimensions which can appear within the Tent of Meeting. As a matter of fact in parshat Terumah God says that he will meet with Moses and commune with him over the kaporet, the covering of the Ark where the cherubim were standing, in an area 2 ½ cubits by 1 ½ cubits. On the other hand After Solomon built and dedicated the Temple he declared “the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built”. It would appear that there is a contradiction. Either God can cause Himself to be contained in a physical space or He can’t. This question has been the subject of many commentators and philosophers over the generations.

Y. Leibowitz too addressed this issue and explained it in a novel way by using a haggadic text. The haggadic text refers to a conversation between a man and his wife and they say the following: “When our love was strong, we could sleep together on the edge of a sword (another version reads that the edge of a sword wouldn’t have been too narrow), for there was great love between us. Now, when the love between us has ceased or weakened, a bed the width of 60 cubits is not enough for us”. Obviously this ought to be understood as a metaphor. When the love between the God and the Israelites was young, fresh and intense the Shechina was able to reduce itself to the size of the kaporet where God would communicate with Moses. However, as the love became weaker Solomon was able to understand that the heavens weren’t big enough to contain the Shechina how much more so a temple built by man!