ABOUT THIS WEEK'S TORAH PORTION
This Shabbat's reading introduces us to the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary. It seems to come out of left field; there was no hint of such a structure in the last few parashiyot. Actually, this week's parashah is out of order in the sense that the command to create a sanctuary probably came as a reaction to the Golden Calf incident, which we will read about in three weeks. Although many biblical scholars doubt the Mishkan ever existed, other scholars have noted the similarities between the Mishkan and the war ten of Rameses II (see below)—similarities only possible if the Mishkan did exist.
On page 54 of his new book, "The Exodus," Prof. Richard Elliott Friedman notes that a "former student, Prof. Michael Homan of Xavier University of Louisiana, in a wonderful combination of Bible and archaeology, showed that the Tabernacle [the Mishkan] has architectural parallels with the battle tent of Pharaoh Rameses II. [See Michael Homan, To Your Tents, O Israel! (Leiden: Brill, 2002), pp. 111-15.] Its size, shape, proportions, surrounding courtyard, golden winged accoutrements, Eastern orientation, and arrangement of outer and inner rooms are a match…."
Very possibly, those parallels are deliberate—the Mishkan mimicked Rameses's battle tent (see the illustrations on the next page). If so, it is yet another albeit circumstantial proof that at least some of the Israelite people lived in Egypt for several generations.
The war camp was walled-in on all sides in a rectangular shape, and was placed facing east, as the Mishkan would be. Rameses' "reception tent"—like the Mishkan, it was three times as long as it was wide—was set with its entrance at the center of the camp, and had a square-shaped "throne room" attached to it, all of which also was true for the Mishkan. Inside Rameses' "throne room" was his golden throne, above which stood two falcons, one on either side, with their wings covering the throne, reminiscent of the winged cherubim in the Mishkan's Holy of Holies.
Friedman also notes that another of his former students, Prof. Scott Noegel of the University of Washington, "showed parallels between the [Torah's] description of their Ark of the Covenant and Egyptian [ceremonial] barks." These barks are boats, but they were rarely set in water. Rather, they were carried in processionals and were considered to be "sacred ritual objects," said Friedman. "Like the ark that the Levites carry in Israel," he wrote, "the barks were sometimes gold-plated, many were decorated with winged cherubs or birds, they were carried on poles by priests, and they served as a throne and footstool. Noegel concluded that 'the bark served as a model, which the Israelites adapted for their own needs,'" Friedman added. (See Scott B. Noegel. "The Egyptian Origin of the Ark of the Covenant," in Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience, pp. 223-42.)
QUESTIONS FOR TORAH STUDY
Shabbat Candle Lighting for Friday, February 2, is at 5:15 p.m.
Shabbat ends Saturday night with havdalah at 6:19 p.m.
This Week: Shabbat Parashat T'rumah
Sh'mot 25.1-27.19, pages 485-498
FIRST ALIYAH: Among the several names for a synagogue is mikdash me'at, or "small temple," suggesting that the synagogue succeeds the Mishkan and the Temple that followesd it. Is this correct? Explain your answer.
FOURTH ALIYAH: "Planks" of acacia wood are to hold up the Mishkan's walls, and they are to be held upright by silver sockets. What is a plank, and why silver sockets, not gold?
The haftarah, M'lachim Alef 25.1-27.19, begins on Page 500.
Next Week: Shabbat Zachor Parashat T'tzaveh
Sh'mot 27.20-30.1, pages 485-498
Additional Reading: D'varim 25.17-19
FIRST ALIYAH: What is the point of Moshe having to command Israel to bring old for lightiong lamps that have not even been created yet?
SEVENTH ALIYAH: Moshe clearly is in this week's parashah, but never by name. This is the only time from Sh'mot Perek Alef on that this is so. Why is his name missing?
The haftarah, Sh'muel Alef 15.1-34, begins on Page 500.
The questions below are discussed during each week's Torah reading.
They are offered here and in the Shabbat Booklet,
to allow those who wish to participate to prepare in advance.