It’s Adar! This is (at least in my opinion) the most beautiful month to hike Israel’s forests. They are densely green, but not overgrown, warm during the day most of the time, but not hot. This year, I haven’t been able to get away to the North as yet. Besides the power of the beauty, there is something very timeless about walking the same paths as the sages of the Talmud and the mystics of Tzfat. Let’s say one of them wanted to get from Tzfat to Meiron. Wouldn’t he walk through Wadi Amud and stop by the water like I do? Maybe, but then again maybe not. The inner space between the maybe and the maybe not is a wonderful place to be.
I find myself entering that place when I read some of the stories of the Midrash. Are they literal, just the way I understand them? Are there more layers that I don’t know enough to see? I recently came across a new one. Of course, that just means new to me. It is ancient! It comes from Shir HaShirim Rabbah 7, and is also in the Zohar of Parshat Trumah, and is discussed by the Ben Ish Chai. It is about an interaction between Daniel, Nevuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, and the tzitz, the headpiece worn by the Kohein Gadol. Let’s go for a little walk, all right, I’ll be honest, a major digression, and talk about the mishkan, it’s vessels, and the garments of the Kohein Gadol and then we’ll mosey on back to the story.
THE MISHKAN, ITS VESSELS AND ITS MEANING
Although the garments that the kohanim wore are discussed in the Torah later on, the entire topic of the sanctuary (mishkan), its vessels and what they mean to us are under discussion in the parshah. It says, “Make Me a sanctuary so that I will dwell inside you” Rashi adds, “Making it for Me, means for the sake of My Name”. This tells you that the vessels aren’t just vessels, they can “contain” Hashem’s presence, His Name within them. Hashem has many Names. One of them has two letters, a Yud and a Hai. Yud, equals 10 in gematria. It is written above the line, not on the line. This symbolizes that there is a dimension of reality above what scientists call the “event horizon”, the place where our sense of reality finds a home- “the line”. The second letter of this Name is the letter Hai, which equals 5 in gematria. It stands firmly on the ground with its 2 “feet”. It has a “roof” it doesn’t ascend further up beyond visibility. It also has an opening on the bottom, since our reality is one in which people can fall to astonishing depths of depravity, and an opening on the side to allow those who have fallen to re-enter if they do tshuvah, which can only happen in this world. The numerical value of the two letters together is 15, which non-coincidentally is the number of vessels in the mishkan. The mishkan was a place in which both realities; the reality of the Yud, the upper world, and Hai, this world, came together. The actual structures were like the body, and the divinity within them was the soul. Thus, the Mishkan was very much like we are; a combination of body and soul.
AND NOW FOR THE STORY
Nevuchadnezzar the evil king of Babylon, wanted to prove to Daniel that the idol that he worshipped, baal, had real power. He managed to take the tzitz, the Kohein Gadol’s headpiece that had the words, “Holy to Hashem” upon it, from where it was stored with the other treasures that he sacked when he destroyed the Bais HaMikdash. He pushed the tzitz deep into the idols mouth. He had arranged for a symphony orchestra to come and play and for singers to accompany them with praise of the idol. It then opened its mouth and said, “I am the L-rd your G-d” When Daniel saw this, he asked Nevuchadnezzar permission to “serve” the idol by kissing its mouth. When he positioned himself near baal’s mouth, he whispered, “I am flesh and blood, I am Hashem’s messenger. See that you don’t cause His name to be desecrated. I command you to follow me!” The tzitz then forced the idol’s mouth open, and holy tzitz came out of the impure idol. The musicians tried to keep on playing, but a raging wind came, and the idol fell breaking into pieces.
END OF STORY
What is this story’s message? It’s telling you that the soul of the tzitz wanted to declare Hashem’s unity, in order to make it clear that the idol is just a statue. It repeated the first commandment. Daniel realized that Nevuchadnezzar had managed to capture the hearts of everyone who was there to the point that the opposite idea was what they heard, even though it wasn’t what the tzitz was saying. Instead of grasping that Hashem the creator, the soul of the universe, and the Being from which everything else flows is One, the music, the statue, and the scene fostered an illusion that only Daniel saw through. The others move beyond what their eyes saw.
One of the ways to find Hashem is by thinking now and again about the nature of your soul. It wants to look at the world and declare that Hashem is One. Everyone, on some level, longs to live a life in which there is purpose and contribution. The Torah begins last week’s Parshah with the words,” Take a contribution to Me”. It doesn’t say, “give”, it says take. Hashem gave you a soul with something of Him. Your desire to give and to give meaningfully is one of the easiest ways to get in touch with your soul. Just be sure of one thing. You don’t end up using your desire to give in order to worship the baal, whatever its contemporary name is.
The Torah then lists all sorts of metals and materials. Some of them were very expensive (gold, silver) some far less so (wool, goat skins). Everyone has their niche, the place where they can make a contribution. So, do you. Sometimes a contribution seems almost irrelevant. It’s not. It’s real. The one thing that matters is that you devote whatever you have to Hashem, to rectifying His world, and to rectifying yourself. It’s also important that you learn to see that someone else’s trumah is valuable, even if at first glance you just don’t see how or why.
One of the best examples of this is Tikvah Juni, a young woman who is an international inspirational speaker. Oh yes, she has Downs Syndrome. More on her next week, BEH.