Parashat T’tzaveh • Exodus 27:20–30:10

Beaten Toward Redemption

The mark of a ubiquitous and resonant idea is the ability to inspire both high and low culture simultaneously. Nietzsche quipped, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,” a notion taken up by no less a meme-generator than pop princess Kelly Clarkson. But our Midrash predates both, comparing the description of the “clear oil of beaten olives” from our parasha to the people of Israel, who required the conquest by others to compel them toward repentance and to evoke an emergence of their highest natures. It is, on the one hand, a troubling excuse for historic suffering in the presence of a seemingly absent God. Yet this analogy also drives our people’s almost supernatural survival instinct in the face of enduring persecution. Both approaches elevate what would otherwise be a mind-numbing litany of artifacts and practices of a Temple defunct for two millennia into an aspirational guide for Jews as individuals and as a transcendent community. Nietzsche and Clarkson possessed a firm foundation of lemonade-making-from-lemons upon which to ply their pop-philosophies.

Rabbi Daniel Weiner

Parashat Terumah • Exodus 25:1-27:19

“The entire universe is full of God’s glory” (Isaiah 6:3). “The Heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool; What house can you build for me?” (Isaiah 66:1).” “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this house I have built” (1 Kings 8:27). If God’s Presence fills the entire universe, as these verses from TaNaKh seem to indicate, why does God even need a Temple?

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Terumah, (Exodus 25:1 – 27:19), offers one answer: “That I might dwell among them.” A close read reveals this structure was not build for God — God is not going to dwell in it — but for the people, that God might “dwell among them.” This Hebrew verb, shin-chaf-nun, then becomes the word Shechinah, a closer experience of God’s presence.