Sign In Forgot Password

Derasha Parshat Tetzave

02/27/2024 12:00:00 AM


This is a leap year, so this Parasha gets read by itself, with its own Haftara, and not together with Zachor, which is how it often comes out.  [Today is Shushan Purim Katan.  Purim on the 14th can’t come out on Shabbat but Shushan Purim does.]  It gives us a rare chance to focus on the issues of the Parasha itself instead of on Amalek or Purim.  

People think of the Parasha as being devoted to the clothes of the Kohanim.  But that’s not quite how it starts and certainly not the way it ends.  In those positions, we find a short section about the oil of the Menora and a longer section about the building of the altar for the incense, the Ketoret.  In both sections, the strange thing is these don’t seem to be about the building of the Mishkan.  This seems to be about the way the Mishkan functions.  The functioning of the Mishkan, the way it works inside, is the proper purview of the next book of the Chumash, Vayikra.  We are supposed to be in the Parashiot devoted to the building of the Mishkan.  So what are these functions doing here?

The Torah knows what it is doing so It must be that the lighting of the Menora and the smell of the incense are not quite about the worship service.  They are about the ambience of the building, which is part of what construction achieves.  Without these things, there is less of a sense that this space is here to show honor to its inhabitant.  

I knew an architect years ago who told me a story from his training.  He grew up in Chicago, the architecture capital of the US, and he trained there, at IIT.  One of his teachers there was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German refugee who was one of the great architects of the 20th century.  He told me that he once went to dinner with his teacher.  As they waited for their meal, Mies Van der Rohe asked him if this was good architecture.  He said that he hadn’t looked closely at the building when he walked in.  No, his teacher said, I’m referring to this, in here.  The architect said that he never before thought of the effects inside, the ambience created there, as part of went into a building.  He learned a valuable lesson that night, and he went on to build arresting spaces, including Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.  

The design of the Mishkan goes on this week.  The need for light inside, not so that people will see, but light that adds honor, is part of the design.  And a pleasant smell -- that too adds honor to the space.  This is Hashem’s space, and it must have light and it must have a pleasant scent.  Similarly, the clothes of the Kohanim bring a sense that this space is different.  The words describing the clothes are Kavod and Tiferet, honor and beauty.  The Sforno says that the honor is to lend more weight to the ambience, as would befit any king, let alone Hashem.  

This is the 20th year of EB’s residence in this building.  There have been many enhancements since we moved in.  We have a beautiful backyard for Kiddush and other events, which came during the first year.  We have interior walls, which came after three years. The foyer got a new floor just two years ago.  The item with the most impact on this sanctuary space was the Aron, which came six years later.  Of course, there are ways that it still needs help, as when we worry how hard the rain will fall, or for how long.

When we listened to last week’s Parasha, we thought about the place of gold and silver in Hashem’s house.  But in this week’s Parasha we examine what gives it a sense of honor within.  Good architecture also does that.  

If this is what goes into the making of Hashem’s house, it’s our job to produce the proper sense from our side.  We’re here for an encounter with Hashem.  The second word used to describe the clothes of the Kohanim is “Tiferet,” a beauty that is supposed to awe those who see it.  It is that sense of awe that should be one’s goal.  Walking into a sanctuary in a way that matches its status as Hashem’s house is life- long work.  We are always striving to get to that.  That’s what programming helps us do.  We’re in a special time.  We’ll hear from a soldier this afternoon.  We will have Mrs Horowitz tomorrow.  R’ Chaim Eisen on Tuesday.  I hope to give a special Shiur on the Jewish View of the Ethics of War on March 10.  

All of our programming is an attempt to refine us so that we can enter this place with the proper sense of an encounter with Hashem.



Sun, April 14 2024 6 Nisan 5784