Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Parshat Naso

The Mishkan’s Opening Day – Again!!

“It was that on the day that Moses finished erecting the Mishkan…” (Bemidbar 7:1).

With these words the Torah returns us to the day the Mishkan was dedicated and tells of the sacrifices each tribal leader brought on that opening day.

This is the third time the Torah has told us about the Mishkan’s opening day:

“It came to pass in the first month, in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the Mishkan was set up” (Sehemot 40:17). There we are told how Moshe built it and that God’s presence rested on it.

“'Take a he goat as a sin offering…for today the Lord is appearing to you'” (VaYikra 9:1-4). We are subsequently told how two of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, died that day.

We do not see the deaths of Nadav and Avihu in Shemot and Bemidbar and we do not see the tribal leaders’ sacrifices in Shemot and VaYikra. How is it, that the Torah can tells us about the same day three times, and that each time, the story is so vastly different?

Modern commentators do not have a problem with this issue. The ancient Israelites had different traditions about what really happened and each tradition was recorded in a separate book.

However, we can come to an alternative solution. However, to begin with, we first ask why there are five books of the Torah. Why is there simply not one long Torah? Why was it divided into five separate books?

Each chumash has a central theme running through it and the story of the Mishkan’s dedication, is told in each book from the aspect of that chumash’s theme.

Sefer Shemot is Sefer HaGe’ula; “The book of Exodus”. Its central theme is Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their journey towards Canaan. Hence, the Mishkan is described in it’s role of leading the people through the wilderness: “When the cloud rose up from over the Mishkan, the children of Israel set out in all their journeys. But if the cloud did not rise up, they did not set out until the day that it rose” (Shemot 40:36-37).

Sefer VaYikra is Sefer Torat Kohanim; “The Book of Priestly Laws”. Its central theme is the maintenance of holiness amongst in Israel. Hence the Mishkan is described in its role as being a medium for God to rest amongst Israel. It tells the story from the angle of its sanctification and sacrilege of that role: “Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them.Fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died” (VaYikra 10:1-2).

Sefer Bemidbar is Sefer HaPekudim; “The Book of Orders”. It tells how Israel was organized in their tribal units around the Mishkan, in preparation for Canaan’s conquest. Therefore, the story is told from the aspect of the tribal leaders, and hence we see their plethora of sacrifices in preparation of the day.

Each account has no place in the other Chumash's account, for each chumash is unique with its own unique message.


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