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You’ve Disturbed My Pretty Universe

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I love when worlds, or in this case universes, collide. Steve Harvey’s Miss Universe mix-up this week strangely parallels another timely mix-up – from this week’s Torah reading. As the book of Genesis comes to a close, Joseph brings his two sons to their grandfather Jacob (renamed Israel) to be blessed. Joseph’s assumption, the assumption throughout the book of Genesis, is that the firstborn deserves the “greater” blessing by nature of his being born first. And so Joseph brings his oldest son Manasseh to Jacob’s right side, the “greater” side, and his younger son Ephraim to Jacob’s left. Yet what unfolds is surprising to both Joseph and the reader:

But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn. (Genesis 48:13)

Instead of blessing the oldest with his right hand, signifying the greater blessing, Jacob instead crosses his arms so that his right hand is upon the youngest. What is Jacob trying to teach Joseph, and us, through this choice?

I believe it is a very subversive message. A major theme of Genesis is that of chosenness and rejection, a theme that begins with Cain killing Abel because Cain’s offering was not accepted. In Steinbeck’s East of Eden, one character concludes from this story: “I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt – and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is” (p. 329).

To choose is also to reject. Even when it’s not as explicit as taking off someone’s crown to put it on someone else, it’s often experienced that way. As Jerry Seinfeld says about being second-place: “Congratulations, you almost won. Of all the losers, you came in first of that group. You’re the number one loser.” Being rejected is painful, especially when you expected to be chosen.

So how can we mitigate this pain? One way is to try to “amputate” rejection by getting rid of the very act of choosing. I’m not sure how realistic this option is, and I think a world without any choosing is also a world without ambition, accomplishment and recognition.

Jacob offers an alternative approach. Instead of refusing to choose, he challenges the connection between chosenness and greatness. By switching his hands, he transforms this selection process into a confusing and seemingly arbitrary one. Who is being chosen – the one on Jacob’s right side, or the one under Jacob’s right hand? And having just met both Manasseh and Ephraim, what criteria is Jacob using for his choice? This lack of clarity brings to focus the subjective nature of many choices.

As it says later on in the Torah, “God did not set love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people – for you were the fewest of all peoples” (Deuteronomy 7:7). Choice is less about the chosen than the chooser. Appreciating this undermines the inaccurate and often unfair conclusions made about people who are and are not chosen.

Unity in Division

Americans are fond of the concept of equality. Indeed, the preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence proudly proclaims “that all men are created equal.” But, is this really true? What does the Torah have to say about this subject?

Most would agree that the concept of equality found in the Declaration of Independence means equal treatment under the law. However, many in contemporary society wish to extend the famous quote above to denote that all human beings are the same. Those of this school of thought mistakenly believe, consciously or unconsciously, that there should be no differences in regards to opinions, religion, financial statuses, or societal roles. In short, in order for all of us to get along we must all be the same. People who think this way cannot reconcile diversity with unity. All divisions are barriers to be broken and all differences keep human beings from achieving universal peace and harmony. This is not a new idea. In fact a wealthy and brilliant man once fought for such ideals over 3,300 years ago. His name was Korach and this week’s parsha bears his name.

Last week the spies angered G-d and caused a tragedy to befall the Children of Israel. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more exciting, Korach leads a rebellion against Moshe, which leads to conflict, numerous strange deaths and strife. Why did Korach rebel?

The great Torah commentators teach us that Korach’s intentions were actually noble and something to be emulated. Korach wanted to be the High Priest. In this way he could enjoy a very close connection with G-d. It is indeed a wonderful thing for a Jew to desire a close relationship with G-d. For having such good intentions Korach’s name was immortalized as the title of this week’s Torah portion.

What are some other reasons for Korach’s protest? At Mount Sinai, G-d told the Jewish people that they are “a kingdom of priests,” and the Rabbis interpret ‘priest,’ in this case, to mean High Priest. Furthermore every single Jew has this lofty potential within him/herself (In the Garden of the Torah, 56). Korach reasoned that since the entire congregation is holy and every Jew possesses a spark of G-dliness, there should be no division of labor within the service of G-d. He also internalized the lesson of last week’s parsha, which teaches that action – serving G-d through mitzvot in the physical world – is more important than intention. If we must all do mitzvot, why should Moshe be held in any higher esteem than anyone else? Furthermore, Moshe only appointed members of his own tribe (Levi) to services in the Holy Tabernacle (later the Temple). Moshe’s own brother, Aaron, was designated High Priest. To Korach and his cronies, these details not only smacked of nepotism, but the choice of who should work in the Temple suspiciously seemed to have come from Moshe rather than the Holy One Blessed is He. All of this led Korach to protest Moshe saying: “Why have you made yourselves elite over G-d’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3).

Korach’s intention was admirable. His error lay in how he went about pursuing his ambitions. Korach’s rebellion resulted in the deaths of thousands of people. Not only in deed was Korach evil, but his very essence was rooted in divisiveness. In Hebrew the root of the name Korach (kuf, resh, chet) means ‘division or ‘split.’ Causing division and strife contradicts the purpose of the Torah which was given in order to bring about peace in the world (In the Garden of the Torah, 57). So why was he honored by having a Torah portion named after him?

To answer this question we must first define unity. Absolute oneness is not possible or desirable in our physical world. Rashi points out that G-d created differences such as morning and evening. Our world is made up of a multiplicity of divisions – hot and cold, darkness and light, big and small, male and female, and a variety of plant and animal species. However, this inherent diversity in the world need not be an obstacle to the kind of unity the Torah desires. A true unity is one in which divergent entities are able to work together in perfect harmony without compromising their own individual natures (ibid., 58). Differences are not to be feared and eradicated. Rather, they are to be embraced. In fact it is the variety and diversity in our world, which makes life so special and interesting.

The Torah is endorsing pluralism. It is ok for men and women or Jews and non-Jews to have separate roles and different ways of achieving the ultimate purpose of unifying the spiritual with the material. G-d left it up to each of us to utilize our own unique talents, intelligence, and creativity to figure out our place in the grand scheme of things. When every individual plays the note they were meant to play, we can all make some beautiful music together.

Espionage Gone Wrong – 3 Mistakes Made by the Spies

In last week’s Parsha, Shelach, Moshe sends spies to scout out the promised land of Canaan (Israel) so that the desert-wandering Jews could get a sense of the lay of the land and its inhabitants. Ten out of the twelve spies returned with a negative report. This incurred G-d’s wrath and earned the Hebrews 40 years of prolonged wondering in the wilderness before they could enter the land of Israel. Where exactly did the spies err?

One major mistake made by the spies was their failure to learn from the mistake of Moshe’s righteous sister, Miriam. At the end of the previous parsha, Miriam spoke unfairly about Moshe. In truth what she said was not that bad, but those who reach such a high spiritual level are judged by a higher standard. Her words caused her to be punished with tzaaras (usually translated as leprosy – See: The Power of Words). The Jews were unable to continue their journey until she was healed. This episode is immediately followed by the parsha detailing the sin of the spies. The spies slandered the land of Israel by claiming that its people were fearsome giants who lived in well-fortified, unconquerable cities. They bewailed that the Jewish people would be no match for the land’s inhabitants. Had they learned the proper lesson from Miriam’s affliction, they would not have spoken negatively.

The spies were no ordinary men. They were the holy and respected princes of each of the twelve tribes, handpicked by Moshe for this mission. Their error stemmed from a spiritual concern. In the desert, the Jewish people were provided with all of their physical needs by G-d in the most direct manner possible. Their shoes never wore out and their clothes repaired themselves. Their food came in the form of manna which descended from Heaven. In this miraculous existence, they had absolutely no reason to think about physical concerns. Indeed the Jewish people at this time were heavily involved in Torah study and observance of the laws they had recently been given. All their time was devoted toward spiritual pursuits. The spies knew that once the people entered the land, the Jewish people would be forced to engage in worldly affairs, such as working the land and earning a living. They feared that this would take a heavy toll on their service of G-d. This is precisely why ten of the spies described the land as one “which eats up its inhabitants,” meaning that the land, its labor, and preoccupation with the material world would ‘swallow up’ and drain the energy needed to perform their holy obligations (Torah Studies. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, 248).

This was the spies’ second error. They mistakenly assumed that the only way a person could fulfill their spiritual duties of serving G-d was by retreating from the physical world. Only in seclusion, they wrongly believed, could one properly serve G-d. Most world religions have indeed adopted this way of thinking. It is understandable that human beings would believe that the only way to lead a spiritual life is by avoiding a physical one. This is not true. The Torah demands that we intimately involve ourselves in the world so that we can elevate the physical world and draw down holiness into it. Chassidut explains that G-d’s purpose of creation was so that He could be sanctified even in the lowest world i.e. our physical world in which it is possibly to deny the existence and involvement of the Creator.  By bringing out the G-dliness within nature, we transform the world into a dwelling place for G-d and become partners in creation. This idea of synthesizing and unifying G-d with His creation is one of the most potent and beautiful truths revealed to the world through the giving of the Torah.

In closing, the spies were told to come back with a report describing the land. They were not instructed to provide their own opinion – which is exactly what they did. This was their third mistake. The spies – with the exception of Calev and Yehoshua – told the Israelites, “We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” In life we are indeed supposed to use our intellect and resourcefulness to ‘scout out the land’ and be aware of the challenges we face. However, we must not despair just because a situation looks bleak. The final outcome of our efforts is decided by none other than G-d. It’s prudent to do our research and be more than a mere spectator in our own lives. However, we must trust that G-d ensures that everything happens for the best.

Shavout – What it Means to Receive the Torah

Will Gotkin is a regular contributor to Gather the Jews.

Shavuot celebrates matan Torah, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. On this day the Ten Commandments were uttered before the entire congregation of the children of Israel. But the holiday not only commemorates the giving, but the receiving of the Torah as well. What does it mean to receive the Torah?

The Torah tells us that the Jewish people readily accepted it declaring “na’eseh v’nishma” (‘we will do and then we’ll hear’). Every Shavuot we receive the Torah all over again.

The Torah is G-d’s blueprint for the world and for humanity. Its 613 commandments are tools that we utilize to connect with the Creator of the universe. Every single mitzvah – no matter how insignificant it may seem to us – is an unbreakable connection with eternity.

Some people object to the idea of accepting the Torah, saying: “All that matters is that you are a good person. I am already a good person so what use do I have for all these laws and rituals prescribed by the Torah?”

While the question is understandable it reveals a lack of understanding. It is true that being a good person is primary. Someone who observes Shabbat, but cheats in their business dealings is seriously lacking in their service of G-d. However, the Jew who treats others with kindness, but doesn’t observe Shabbat is also missing out on the purpose of life.

All of the laws of the Torah can be broken down into two parts – those that we understand intuitively and those we do not. The ethical laws are usually more easily understood. Then there are laws like keeping kosher and not mixing wool and linen in the same garment. These have no rational basis discernable through finite human reason and intellect. “We will do and then we’ll hear” means that we try our best to fulfill G-d’s commandments – even the ones we don’t understand. We have good enough reason to trust that G-d knows what is best for us.

The Torah teaches us not only to be good, but to be holy as well. What does it mean to be holy? Holiness means being separate. By giving us the Torah, G-d made us a holy people. There are plenty of good Jews who are not observant, but without the observance of the laws many dismiss as “ritualistic,” a Jew cannot actualize his inborn potential for holiness. Popular radio show host, Dennis Prager points out that even in secular life we have a concept similar to that of holiness. For example, he says, a person who eats spaghetti by burying his face in the plate and eating it in a messy fashion will be told that he is eating like an animal. The person is not evil or immoral, but he is nonetheless behaving like an animal. To be holy means to go beyond our animal nature and to do things that separate us from simply obeying our animal urges and instincts. Rather than being restrictive the Torah frees us from being slaves to these often self-destructive urges. Our modern society of “anything goes” and “do what feels good” has not produced happier people. Some boundaries in life are necessary and healthy. Plus even the non-rational laws are imbued with ethical and moral teachings that can be seen by those who study them in depth.

Receiving the Torah is to accept that there is a right way and a wrong way to conduct one’s life. As Jews we have a special responsibility to not only be good, but to be holy. Not only that, but those who claim they are “good” without Torah may be surprised to find out that the Torah demands a higher standard of goodness than what they may feel is necessary. There is good, and there is great. The Torah teaches us to be great. How do we define goodness? One person’s definition of good may be different from another’s. Who is to say what is right? The Torah brought a universal moral standard into the world. Only G-d can decide what is moral and what is not. The Torah conditions us to get beyond ourselves and our personal egos so that we can get to the truth. In this way we can become kinder, gentler, and more compassionate.

The Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai as a united people – “like one people with one heart.” Jewish unity is also an important precondition to receiving the Torah. This year let us all resolve to study Torah, do more mitzvot – both the interpersonal and the non-rational ones – and develop more love for our fellow Jews. In this way we will soon merit the long awaited redemption.

 

 

 

 

 

The Difference between Faith and Trust

Will Gotkin is a regular contributor to Gather the Jews.

This week we read in Parshas Behar about the law of shmita. Shmita is the Torah commandment that farmers in the land of Israel must let the land lie fallow every seventh year of the agricultural cycle. Shmita is often compared to Shabbat – the seventh day of the week in which Jews must rest and refrain from work.  But is the comparison congruous?

Before we compare shmita and Shabbat let us look at two Hebrew words that many people use synonymously. The words are emunah and bitachon. Are they the same? Not quite. Emunah means faith while bitachon means trust. Still don’t see a difference? Simply put, emunah is one’s belief in the existence of the Creator. Bitachon, however, is the knowledge that G-d is in control of everything and does everything for our benefit.

On Shabbat a person testifies that G-d created the world in six days and commanded us to rest on the seventh. However, during a shmita year a person who depends on working the land for their very livelihood demonstrates that G-d runs the world and will provide for her every need.

G-d rules over nature. Indeed one who observes shmita is testifying that it is actually G-d whom one is dependent upon for one’s livelihood. Whether the crops grow well, the consumers buy our goods, or the clients arrive at our office is not dependent on our charisma or knowledge, but on G-d’s blessing. Sure, we must work in order to be a vessel that is capable of receiving blessings – G-d purposely set up the world in this way, but the final outcome is determined by none other than the One who created an continues to sustain the universe.

Much thanks to Chabad.org. See: The Real Answer to the Question, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

 

Torah Portion: Making Sure Your Criticism is Constructive

Maybe not a kosher lunch, but perhaps a kosher criticism...

Will Gotkin is a regular contributor to Gather the Jews.

Last week in our study of Parshas Tazria we discussed the importance of words and the danger we may incur by speaking ill of others. Our words are indeed powerful and can be used to help as well as to harm. Sometimes helping another person may involve giving him or her some constructive criticism, but how do we know our criticism is motivated by genuine concern for the other’s well-being and not by a need to bolster our own ego?

This week’s parsha, Parshas Metzora discusses the process that a metzora – a person afflicted with a skin disease for having committed the sin of lashon hara (relating unkind, but true information about another) – underwent in order to become purified.

The Hebrew word metzora is a combination of three words – motze (shem) ra. Motze shem ra is a term which means “one who speaks ill of another” when that which he says is false i.e. slander or spreading a false rumor.[1]

The Torah tells us that only a Kohen (priest) had the power to declare someone a metzora. A Kohen must embody loving kindness for his fellow. This is one reason why even today Kohenim have the mitzvah of blessing the congregation. Only a Kohen could declare one a metzora, because if one were to proclaim that another was ritually impure without having a pure and true love for that person, the proclamation itself would be a form of motze shem ra.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D. suggests a good way to know whether our criticism is constructive or destructive. He writes that if we are willing to assist the person whom we are criticizing in correcting the defect or problem, the criticism is constructive. If we’re not interesting in helping the person to do right or at least directing him/her to those who can help, we should leave the criticism to someone who is willing.[2] However, Rabbi Twerski adds that if another seems to criticize us without concern for helping us to improve, we should still consider the comment. Even if the criticizer’s intent wasn’t noble, the observation may still be valid.[3]

Our primary job is to act with kindness toward others. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that if we find fault with another, it is a reflection of our own faults. We would all do well to remember this before we point out deficiencies in other people. Furthermore, we must make sure our care and concern for others is genuine before we pronounce judgment on them.


[1] Pearls for the Shabbos Table. From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Alperowitz

[2] It’s Not As Tough As You Think. Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD. 185-186

[3] Ibid, 186

 

The Power of Words


Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

Everybody has heard the old expression: “words can hurt.” In Judaism speech is considered very important. Our Torah begins with an account of G-d creating the world through His speech. By G-d’s speech our world is also continually sustained. One implication of being created in G-d’s image is that we have been endowed with the ability to speak. Our gift of speech is something that distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Our words could be used to build, but can also be used to destroy.

Parshas Tazria deals mainly with the laws concerning tzaaras. Tzaaras, often incorrectly translated as leprosy, was actually a spiritual affliction that was a Divine punishment for speaking lashon hara (literally, ‘evil tongue’). Lashon hara mainly refers to gossip. A victim of tzaaras was identified by a white spot on their skin. If two white hairs were within that spot of missing pigment a Kohen (priest of the Tabernacle) would pronounce that the person had tzaaras and the person would be exiled from the community for at least one week.

The only cure for the malady was sincere repentance. If after a week the person was cured he or she was allowed to return to society. However, there is a question as to why a person with tzaaras had to endure the shame of being exiled from the community. After all, it was a spiritual condition rather than a physical one and therefore there was no cause for concern that the disease would spread.

The Maharal of Prague explains that a person who speaks lashon hara undermines the peace of society and of the people living in the society. Therefore it is a fitting punishment that as a result of such unacceptable behavior a person be separated from the community and be forced to live alone.[1]

The Torah only legislates punishments which fit their respective crimes measure for measure. Just as lashon hara breeds separation and disunity between people, a person who spreads gossip must be separated from society until they have changed their ways.

The Talmud tells us that the sin of lashon hara is one that everyone of us commits daily. Luckily for us, no one is afflicted with tzaaras anymore. Nevertheless, lashon hara is still considered a grave sin. The Chofetz Chaim writes that the sin of lashon hara taints all of one’s mitzvos and good deeds done previously. The Torah describes tzaaras in great detail in order to teach us to be exceedingly careful with our words. Whenever we say an unkind thing about another we develop an ugly blotch of tzaaras on our souls. The malady of tzaaras was meant to train the Jewish people to guard their tongues. We must not only be careful not say unkind things about others, but we must also sincerely repent when we transgress. In many cases a person must beseech the person they have wronged with their speech for forgiveness.

We have all been a victim of gossip and rumors at some point in our lives. As many of us already know, even when the person who wronged us offers us a sincere apology the damage may linger much longer. A person can never put words they have spoken back in their mouth. As a result of lashon hara a person’s reputation may be left permanently ruined. This is why Jewish sources liken the sin of lashon hara to murder.

We would all do well to try to be a little more careful with our words. A great thing we can do is try to speak more words of kindness. The Talmud tells us that the Temple was destroyed as a punishment for baseless hatred between Jews. The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the Temple will be rebuilt on a foundation of baseless love. We can all do our part to foster unity and peace in the world by being careful with the words we speak. Through our efforts we will all merit the final redemption of the entire world.


[1] Studies in the Weekly Parsha Vayikra. Nachshone, Rabbi Y., 724

Torah Portion: Living in an Impure Society

This commentary is from last week’s Torah portion, but owing to my preoccupation with my cousin’s wedding, I was unable to post it until today.  Apologies. SIR.

Anna Batler blogs about faith and feminism at http://sotah.net/.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anna Batler.

There is an interesting element in the keeping of kosher that is forgotten in our contemporary practice. Not only could the Jews not eat the non-kosher animals, but they also could not touch their carcasses.

Image from Amazon.com

“You shall not eat of their flesh nor shall you touch their carcass – they are unclean to you.” Leviticus 11:8.

The text demands that we avoid entering the state of impurity. Becoming impure is not a neutral state.

Rashi limits the scope of this prohibition — to times when a person is visiting the temple during holidays — because purity is required for admittance and to bring sacrifices at the temple. In limiting the application of a purity law, Rashi is struggling with the livability of “purity.”

The one vestige of the purity system still practiced is the ritual impurity attached to menstruating women (“family purity”), which can be “cured” by going to the mikvahs after the menstruation ends.

The contemporary experience with family purity may shed some light on what it was like to live in a world of purity law, and why it was important to Rashi to limit the reach and significance of purity laws.  There is a spiritual and intellectual price to being “impure.”  I once attended a class taught by a woman who practiced family purity; she suggested improving the meaning of the practice for contemporary women by changing the words “pure” and “impure” to some other more neutral word.  Impurity; however, is not neutral, it is negative state of separation from your community and even perhaps from God. Because it is one thing not to be able to go to the temple — because you live a week’s journey from the temple — and it is another matter entirely to be prohibited from entering because you are impure.

Purim: A true shpiel

Anna Batler blogs about faith and feminism at http://sotah.net/.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anna Batler.

On Purim there is a “custom” to get so drunk that one is no longer able to distinguish between Haman, the arch villain, and Mordechi, the hero.   Within this is a hint at an alternative reading of the Book of Esther as a political satire and a comedy of manners.  This is a book of palace intrigue, hapless plots to assassinate a hapless king, and an hero who is hardly better than the arch villain.

Yummm...

This is Haman’s decree to kill the Jews:

“Letters were sent by courier to all the provinces of the king, to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all the Jews, from young to old, children and women, on one day….”

This Mordechi’s decree to kill everyone:

“The [king] has given permission to the Jews of every city to organize and to defend themselves; to destroy, to slay and to exterminate every armed force of any people or province that threaten them, along with their children and women, and to plunder their possessions.”

Both letters empower the population to abandon the rule of law.  The king, confronted by special interests, signs opposing bills –  government at its most hysterically ineffective.

It is clear from the start that the king cannot maintain the rule of law – not even in his palace. The Book of Esther begins with decree written upon the disobedience of Vashti, the queen who would not come to the king “wearing the royal crown” and presumably nothing else.  The King decrees that “all wives will show respect to their husbands, great and small.”  This decree would be seriously funny, even without mentioning that it applies to both “great” husbands and “small” husbands.

An ineffective government busies itself with legislating in its subjects’ bedrooms.

Today, the tradition of satire on Purim continues in the “purim Shpiel,” and yet it is often forgotten that the Book of Esther itself is a “purim Shpiel.”

So when you silently listen to every word of the megliah, take a moment, read and laugh a little.

Torah portion Pekudei: A place the lord commanded.

Anna Batler blogs about faith and feminism at http://sotah.net/.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anna Batler.

In Parshat Pekudei, the construction of the temple marches forward.  Each time an element is completed, the text repeats the same phrase, “as the Lord commanded Moses.” Exodus 39: 21-36. This phrase is repeated five times in total.  This is an unusual move – the style of the Hebrew bible is generally terse.

I grew up hearing the following troubling commentary explaining the repetition, often attributed to Beis Halevi. According to him, the repetition emphasizes that God’s expressed will is the place where spirituality begins and ends.  The desire to serve God according to our own wishes cannot result in spiritual revelation or growth.  Instead, it only results in sin – like worshiping the Golden Calf.  Even the generation that left Egypt, who are traditionally thought of as immensely pious and spiritual, sinned when attempting to follow their personal understanding of the Divine will. Thus, regardless of spiritual or intellectual, we cannot formulate our way.

This understanding of the human relationship to Divinity constructs two entirely separate categories: what the Lord “commanded,” which is good and spiritual, and everything else which may be permissible, but it is not spiritually advantageous.  This duality has one obvious result – the coalescing of power in the hands of the few who tell us what the “Lord commanded Moses.”  A currency of the soul is created – spirituality, to be real, must be purchased through obedience to religious authorities.

Alternatively, if ordinary people can know what the “Lord commanded,” even if they are not intellectually and spirituality remarkable, the repetition in Pekudia can be read as emphasizing the importance of self-directed versus self-congratulatory spirituality.  A religion practiced for the benefits it provides is rejected; the “self-help” religion is as old as the golden calf.  Then, the Mishkan, or the Tent of Meeting becomes an antidote – a place of authentic spirituality, a place of the Divine impulse, a place that the “Lord commanded.”