Illustration: Cyrus Restoring the Vessels of the Temple
By Gustave Dor'e
Once when I was sitting in synagogue the rabbi brought up the issue of: "Why we read these same stories year after year about things that have no relevance to the 21st century". He then went on to say that the kitchen in one's house is like the temple....
So, the next time you bring a bull into your apartment to be sacrificed, please don't forget to pour its blood down the legs of the kitchen table...
The relevance of the Torah portions to 21st century life comes from trying to understand why certain materials and measurements are given. So, for example: Why is gold used instead or iron? Why does it say 5 cubits and not 6? Why are there 2 cherubirim and not 4 ?
In this week's Torah portion we are told that the people were commanded to bring: goat's hair. In other articles in this series, we discussed the connection between goats and deception. We also mention that hair has something to do with devotion to God. Therefore, this would suggest that goat's hair has something to do with: deceptive devotion to God or: devotion to God based on deception.
Another aspect to consider is the repeated use of the number: 5. It is my opinion the the number 5 has something to do with redemption, because the "Year of the Jubilee" when all land is returned to its owners takes place on the 50th year. Also, the first born sons are "bought back" for 5 shekels. Nevertheless, the most important story about the number 5 has to do with Leah's 5th son: Issachar.
In short: Reuben: Jacob and Leah's first born son, finds some fruit in a wheat field. Let us not forget that the rabbi suggested that it was the kitchen which was like the temple, not the living room. Therefore, this merely serves to confirm one of the major themes expressed throughout this series of articles in the Jerusalem Post that each food represents a specific type of religious knowledge. Since the rabbis have taught for centuries that the Torah is the bread of life, this suggests that a wheat field has something to do with a religious school.
Regardless, Rachel sees the fruit and asks to have it, but Leah refuses because she claims that Rachel has already stolen her husband and now she wants: "her son's fruit". Let us also remember that in Hebrew: first born son" and "first fruits of the field" are the same word and that the Holy Day of "Shavout" where we celebrate the giving of Torah to Moses is also called: "The Festival of the First Fruits".
Accordingly, Rachel then offers an exchange. Leah can sleep with Jacob if Reuben will give Rachel his fruit.
To make a long story short, Leah tells Jacob she has "bought him" and she becomes pregnant from this night together. She then names the baby: "Issachar" which means: "man for hire", but, to our surprise, when she explains why she has given this name she does not mention Reuben's fruit. Instead, she says the baby is her reward for giving Jacob her maidservant as a concubine.
While this may indeed be true, nevertheless, Sarah also gave her slave as a concubine for her husband and there is no mention of Sarah finally becoming pregnant as a reward.
Regardless, when we recall the story of Esau selling his birthright as the first born son for "red food", we can see that these themes of food, knowledge, land, and numbers repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, due to space constraints of the blog format, I cannot discuss every number here in this article, but before closing I will just mention the numbers: 20 and 8 because in Hebrew it does not say: 28, it says 20 plus 8, hence we must analyze both numbers.
Jacob did not have 20 children, so the names of his sons cannot help us. Where we do see the number 20, however, is in reference to the punishment for believing in the ten dishonest spies. Basically, the Israelites are told that anyone under the age of 20 is too young to know the difference between good and evil. Thus, out goes the Christian idea of original sin....The number 8, in my opinion, has something to do with a new teaching. Hence, both Moses and Jacob "returned" when they were 80 years old and brought with them new ideas and a new perspective (Jacob even brought back with him a new name). It is my personal theory that as the first son of the second wife, Joseph should be considered Jacob's seventh son. I believe this is conformed when he is later described as the son set apart from his brothers which echos the description of the Sabbath day.Rachel, when Joseph is born, asks that God "add another son" and the name Joseph sounds like the Hebrew word: "to add". Since we have already noted in this article the connection between a son and the word of God, if Joseph is indeed to be compared to the Sabbath and the 7th day, then his brother Benjamin must be connected with the 8th day, a new week and a new teaching or perspective.This then implies that the number 28 represents: a new teaching, not influenced by the knowledge of the difference between good and evil.
In conclusion: the stories of the Torah, even the seemingly irrelevant ones about the Tabernacle, do indeed have relevance for the 21st century, if one accepts the principle that all the themes of the stories in the Torah reinforce one another. Accordingly, we should expect to find that the measurements and materials associated with the Tabernacle reinforce these themes as well....