The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Terumah: And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.

In this week's Torah portion, God gives Moses instruction for building the Tabernacle, or Mishkan. It is to be made out of materials gathered by all the people, out of precious things in their possessions. Everyone is to contribute to it. There is to be an Ark made of gold and acacia wood to store the Tablets of the Law. The cover of the Ark (the karopet of ha-aron) will be made of gold and will have two cherubs made of the same piece of gold as the cover itself, facing each other with faces downcast but wings spread wide to cover the whole Ark, carved into the top of the cover. God instructs Moses that He will instruct him when Moses puts his head between the two cherubs over the Ark.

There was also to be a table made of acacia wood plated in gold, on which would be placed the showbread. These were twelve loaves of bread (one for each of the twelve tribes) specially baked to sit before the Presence of God. After which, they would be divided among the priests and eaten. It is mentioned in 1 Samuel 21: 4-7 that King David was given the showbread to eat by the High Priest.

The lampstand, or menorah,  was to be made of one enormous, solid piece of gold, hammered into six branches to hold seven lamps. Cups, spheres and flowers were hammered out of the gold to decorate it. The menorah was roughly 150 pounds, made of a single piece of gold.

The cloth of the Tabernacle was to be made of linen and wool, dyed with expensive dyes like techelet and  crimson worm. The Torah forbids wearing clothing made of a mixture of wool and linen, but also insists that the garments of the High Priest be made of a mixture of wool and linen. The dyed cloth was to be woven into a tapestry with cherubs decorating the fabric. Ten such cloths would be made, with each curtain 42 feet by 6 feet in area. They were sewn together in two groups of five with golden fasteners to attach them together, with eleven sheets of goats' wool, of area 45 feet by 6 feet, forming a cover. Five sheets were sewn together, and six sheets were sewn together, with the sixth sheet forming a tent flap for the Tabernacle. A roof was made of ram skins, processed with a type of tanning that made them red, with another roof made of skins processed with a type of tanning that made them blue, called tachashim (תְּחָשִׁים). Some interpreters think that the blue-processed skins were dolphin skins, while others think they were badger, or cow leather that was heavily processed.

The tent beams of the Tabernacle were made of acacia wood plated in gold, and shod with silver. Similar to the cloth of the Tabernacle, a curtain (parokhet) would be made, hanging from the rafters, to shield the Ark from view. As I have previously blogged, parokhet and kaporet are anagrams of each other, as are ha-Aron and Aharon (Aaron). The curtain, along with the wall of the Tabernacle, demarcated the extent of the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle.

Interestingly, in Kabbalah, the word parokhet takes on a transcendental meaning, as the barrier between adjacent higher realms of being. Between the world of Action (or Assiah) and the world of Fomation (or Yetzirah) is a curtain or barrier. And between Yetzirah and the world of Ideas (or B'riah) is a curtain. This barrier is inadvertently amusingly described by OTO devotees as "The Veil of Paroketh" (literally, "The Veil of a Curtain").  And between B'riah and the world of Archetypes (or Atzilut) is a curtain, which the Hermetic tradition calls "The Abyss".

An altar was to be made of acacia wood plated in copper, square with protrusions (literally, "horns") emerging out of each corner. This was for burnt offerings.

The Torah will repeat everything in this Torah portion later on once the people come to actually build these things. Next week, the instructions for preparing the Tabernacle will be given, and then there will be a rather disappointing interlude where Aaron, in Moses' absence, will build a Molten Calf for the Children of Israel to idolize. This will have unfortunate consequences. After which, the people will do what God commanded, and it will be described nearly identically with what was written in this week's Torah portion, with different verb tenses.

Of course, to Masons, "the Tabernacle was a model for King Solomon's Temple, of which this and every well-governed lodge is a representation." If it weren't a few hours before Shabbat, I'd explore this in a lot more detail.

The Haftarah for this Torah portion is from the First Book of Kings [1 Kings 5: 26 - 6:13]:
And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him: and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a league together.
And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men.
And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy.
And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains;
Beside the chief of Solomon's officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.
And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house.
And Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.
And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits.
And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house.
And for the house he made windows of narrow lights.
And against the wall of the house he built chambers round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle: and he made chambers round about:
The nethermost chamber was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad: for without in the wall of the house he made narrowed rests round about, that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house.
And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.
The door for the middle chamber was in the right side of the house: and they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the middle into the third.
So he built the house, and finished it; and covered the house with beams and boards of cedar.
And then he built chambers against all the house, five cubits high: and they rested on the house with timber of cedar.
And the word of the LORD came to Solomon, saying,
Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father:
And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.

This should be familiar to every Freemason.

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