Posts tagged " Tabernacle "

What Do You Do?

April 10th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

I was thinking about chapter 40 in the book of Exodus. Ancient Jewish wisdom describes how  God wanted to give Moses the honor of assembling the Tabernacle because he hadn’t been involved in the contribution and building process.  The words used by one transmitter are, “she’lo asa Moses shum melacha b’Mishkan,”  “for Moses had not done any work for the Tabernacle.”  Excuse me?

Is there any person, perhaps even including the main craftsman, Betzalel, who was more directly involved in building the Tabernacle than Moses?  Who was it who communicated every instruction from God regarding the donations for and the construction of the Tabernacle? Who carved and brought us the two tablets which are the center point of the Tabernacle?  If you look at the Scripture describing the Tabernacle, Moses is part of it over and over and over.

What can it mean when ancient Jewish wisdom says, “Moses hadn’t done any work for the Tabernacle.”?

I have not yet learned an answer to this question.  Nonetheless, here is what I do have for you.  Doesn’t this scenario sound somewhat familiar?  Can you think of anyone you know who may at times feel that they aren’t doing great things? Accomplishing what they could? That they are somewhat anonymous in the larger world?  And yet… this person is behind everyone else’s accomplishments !

How many times does the wife and mother in a family feel that everyone else is doing things, stretching, growing, and they are only the facilitators in the background?  We register our kids for activities and lessons, drive them there, and help them practice their new skills.  Who’s the one noticeably accomplishing?  The child obviously—we just provide support.

We run our homes and provide the background support that allows our husbands to grow in their careers and life paths.  When we do our job well, it allows everyone else to do their jobs well, but to an uneducated eye it may seem as if we’re doing nothing while everyone else is doing everything.  It is even possible to look at ourselves and our Tabernacles and think, “I haven’t done anything!”

This struck me last night as I was listening to my son practicing his Torah reading (again) for his Bar Mitzvah. Please God, on that day he will be up in front of the congregation reading the Torah for the whole community.  It may look as if I had nothing to do with it.  But truly, I will be behind his success just as Moses was behind each part of the Tabernacle. Yet in a way, it will look to those present as it looked in the desert—as if Moses, “had not done any work for the Tabernacle.”

Maybe that is why Moses gets the final task of actually putting it all together—the final step of creating a Tabernacle where before there wasn’t any structure.  Yes, he wasn’t directly involved in contributing or building, but in reality he was everywhere and everything.  And we are the same.  We mothers may sometimes feel that we’re not accomplishing, but, just like Moses and the Tabernacle, we are really the force behind everything that everyone else in our family accomplishes.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat – Again and Again

April 8th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

After two tragic airplane accidents, Boeing is in the news. Possible liability has depressed its stock price and shaved tens of billions of dollars off the company’s valuation.  I covered troubling questions of cut corners in the design of the latest generation of the 50-year-old 737 and the disturbing relationship between government and one of its largest military contractors in my podcast here.  However, today let’s look at the approximately 2,000 Boeing 737s in the air at any given time every day and the fifteen normal take-offs made by a 737 every single minute of every day. 

Before each 737 starts to taxi away from the gate, the pilot in the left seat and the first officer in the right work their way down a printed check list that each could recite by heart.  “Navigation lights” calls out one and the other glancing at the panel responds, “On.”  Then comes “Taxi Lights.”  “On.” This is followed by altimeter, radios and autopilot and the correct response for each is “Set.”  Not until the long check list has been completed does the airplane begin its pushback.

The repetitive routine could anesthetize ordinary people into robotic compliance.  But commercial pilots are not ordinary people, they’re professionals and they’ve trained themselves to view each and every run down the check list as if it was the first time.  They might have asked one another those same questions on three earlier flights that day but on the fourth, their eyes still scan each switch and gauge with the same alert focus they did on the first.  Their confirmations are still precise and accurate.

The routine of repetitiveness can dull the senses and even dehumanize us if we fail to learn the secrets used by the flight deck and other professionals.  Most of us shower or brush our teeth so automatically that sometimes we don’t even remember having performed these basic ablutions.  When the harried young mom tries yet again to teach her toddler not to throw food on the ground during meals it is hard for her not to sound weary; she’s already remonstrated with her offspring eleven times this week alone.  When the office worker prepares his weekly report for the forty-third time this year his weariness comes through in the words he chooses to write.  Yes, repetitiveness can dehumanize us unless we learn how to transcend it.

Successful living depends on establishing routines but we also need the vital life skill of keeping routines fresh so they don’t detach us from passionate living.  This indispensable life skill is taught in the longest chapter of all the 187 chapters found in the Five Books of Moses.  Chapter 7 in the Book of Numbers details the altar dedication gifts brought by the head of each of the twelve tribes.

The first was Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Judah.  While not intending to bore you to death, I am reproducing the text detailing his offering.  You’ll see why in just a moment.

His offering: one silver bowl weighing 130 shekels and one silver dish of 70 shekels by the sanctuary weight, both filled with choice flour with oil mixed in, for a meal offering; one gold ladle of 10 shekels, filled with incense; one bull of the herd, one ram, and one lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; one goat for a sin offering; and for his sacrifice of well-being: two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five yearling lambs…
(Numbers 7:13-17)

The next was Nethanel ben Tzuar of the tribe of Issachar. I don’t have to reproduce the text of his gift (Numbers 7:18-23) since it was word for word identical to that of his predecessor.  And so with Eliav Ben Cheilon of Zevulun (Numbers 7:24-29) and so with the head of the tribe of Reuven and so on, all the way to the twelfth gift by Achirah ben Ainan of the tribe of Naphtali (Numbers 7:78-83).  Every gift was completely identical.

If the purpose of God’s message to mankind was merely conveying dusty and irrelevant historic information, 66 verses could easily have been omitted.  I think the way that you or I would have written this would be simply, “And each tribe’s head brought the same gift of ____.”  There we would have inserted those six verses one time instead of twelve.  Had we been especially diligent we might have added, “And for those of you with no lives to live, we provide the names of all the tribal heads in the appendix at the end of this volume.” 

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that although the material details of all twelve gifts were identical, each was enumerated separately because each was uniquely given with its own unique symbolism.  For instance, the numerical value of the letters making up the words ‘one silver bowl’ add up to 930 which Nachshon meant to allude to the years of the life of the first man, Adam who lived 930 years.  He meant its weight of 130 to allude to Adam’s age when he begat Seth (Genesis 5:3) from whom the world’s population spread.  In similar fashion, Zevulun intended his silver dish to represent the oceans upon which he sailed. (Genesis 49:13).  Without going into all the details here, each tribe gave the same objects but personalized them all with their own unique identities.

Therein lies the secret of escaping the repetitiveness routine.  While I may brush my teeth just as I did yesterday, each morning is quite unlike any other morning of my life. This morning is filled with all kinds of yet undreamed-of potential and my conversation with God and gratitude to Him for another day will reflect that each day is a very special day. 

I might be speaking to my child in just the way I did yesterday but each and every interaction with that tiny potential-filled bundle is its own privilege with its own possibilities.  I might be preparing a routine weekly report but if I used the past week well then I am a slightly different person and my work will reflect that fact.  And those pilots up front? While you’re settling into seat 27B, fastening your belt and making sure your entertainment system works, the flight crew professionals are meticulously working their way through a routine.  They are doing so with the feeling that this is the most important flight ever.  This morning’s flights are forgotten; tomorrow’s haven’t yet come to mind.

All that matters is this moment when my soul comes together with what I must be doing right now and this blending creates an utterly unique moment, breeding a one-time set of actions done like they have never been done before.  72 verses in the Book of Numbers makes that so clear.

If you’d like to explore the idea of the numerical values of Hebrew words as mentioned above, along with many other unique features of the language that reveal hidden depths in Scripture, take a look at Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language. It pairs well with Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Bible-based Introduction to the Hebrew Alphabet for the young ones in your life (or maybe even yourself!). Both books are at a substantially  reduced price this week.

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No Results Guaranteed

March 17th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 4 comments

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

The book of Exodus ends with the completion and assembly of the Tabernacle.  The description of assembling the materials, building the vessels, and sewing the tapestries and clothing for the Priests are in the active tense, “and he made,” “and he placed,” with one exception.  Verse 40:17 says,  “And it was in the first month of the second year on the first of the month that the Tabernacle was erected.”  The actual assembly of the Tabernacle is said in a passive voice, “was erected.”

Why? Ancient Jewish wisdom describes that after the children of Israel brought all the components of the Tabernacle to Moses it was time to assemble it.  God wanted to give Moses the honor of actually assembling the Tabernacle but the planks and pieces were so huge and heavy that Moses knew it was impossible for a human being to lift them and put them in place.

As ancient Jewish wisdom beautifully states, Moses said before God, “How can it be erected by a human being?” 

God said to him, “You do your part—make an attempt so it looks as if you’re doing it, and it will rise and be assembled by itself.”

And that is why the verse says, “…the Tabernacle was erected” in a passive voice. It assembled itself.

Wow!  I’m going to share with you an idea that I would have rejected as a mother of young children, but has become very dear to me as they have grown older.  We put in our effort.  We make an enormous effort to parent well, to be good mothers.  And that is our responsibility. We have to make our attempts. To the rest of the world it may look as if we are raising our children!  But the truth is that just as it appeared as if Moses was lifting the Tabernacle and it was really happening independently of him, the development of our children is really independent of us.  The outcome of how our children turn out, what type of person they become—that is up to God. 

I have a friend who went to speak to a Torah scholar about one of her children who was born with innate behavioral challenges. Despite years of various efforts and therapies, my friend was still very concerned about what would be with this child in adulthood.  The Torah sage told her, “That’s not your concern.  You put in your effort to be a good mother.  You make an effort to research doctors, providers, and treatments within reason, and that is all!  What will be with him and who he will become is not dependent on your actions.  That is up to God.” 

Our children’s successes are not due to us, and our children’s struggles and failures are not ours either.  Our job as mothers is about effort;  the outcome is independent of us and dependent on God (and the child’s own input).

This is really a mind-blowing idea and it may not resonate with each of you, and that’s okay.  For me, it resonates.  We put in our best efforts, do our best and have faith in God who can bring about the results without our help, in the same way as the Tabernacle was assembled.

Olive Oil and Resilience

March 5th, 2019 Posted by Your Mother's Guidance 1 comment

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Exodus 27:20 provides the direction to crush olives to prepare clear olive oil to use in the Tabernacle.  The children of Israel are often compared to olive oil.  One of these ways is that just as olives need to be pressed and crushed before they release their oil, the Jewish nation also reveals its beauty and greatness after going through periods of pressure.  History bears this out, where times of tragedy and oppression have led directly to periods of great spiritual greatness.  After the destruction of the Second Temple came a huge period of Torah learning as happened also after the Crusades.

We know this to be true in our own lives as well.  I, and I’m sure you too, can look back on periods of great difficulty with gratitude.  We know that we have become stronger, bigger, better people by going and growing through hardships.  Rabbi Hauer in Baltimore calls this Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome. He connects it to the month in which Purim falls, Adar, versus the month of Passover, Nissan. In Nissan the Passover redemption happens miraculously and completely.  Adar is more complicated. After Haman’s plot is uncovered Esther tragically remains in the king’s palace and the Jews remain in exile.  Sometimes we have to work through difficulties to reach complete redemption.

I believe that this concept is important to remember as mothers.  Often the “mama bear” instinct is so strong in us, that we may want to shield our children from pain or stress.  Yet, our tradition, as well as current research on resilience, or grit, stress the importance of even children persevering through difficulties and bearing discomfort to come out stronger.  I recently had the opportunity to talk with school administrators who shared that due to parents complaining whenever their children feel uncomfortable because of their school workload, they respond by continually lightening the curriculum.

I know it’s painful to watch our children in pain, and I really hope you don’t misunderstand me.  I am not promoting hurting our children!  Yet, by allowing them to persevere and struggle through discomfort, we are giving them the greatest gift.  We are helping them recognize that they have tremendous strength and resources, that they have God’s help and love, as well as our own, and that we believe in their ability to rise above their circumstances.  We can build resilience in our children, but not by shielding them from discomfort.

Let’s try to share our own resilience and experience with our children.  We can share with them a challenge we faced in our day and how we were able to work through it.  We can share with them the strategies that helped us work through our challenge. We can share how we felt during that difficulty, and how we feel at the end of it.  We can model that pressure and discomfort lead to growth and greatness, just as the pressed olive, yields pure oil that can illuminate the Tabernacle’s Menorah (candelabra).

Everyone Needs to Give

February 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

In the Sinai desert, the Tabernacle was the place where human beings could get closest to God.  Building it was a project for everyone—no exceptions.  Everyone in the nation contributed to it.

In our homes, we often have different people with different strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to make.  Just as the Tabernacle needed to come from men and women, leaders and laymen, our homes are also built when everyone has a role and can contribute and be a giver in his or her own way. 

Here’s the kicker: it’s not that the Tabernacle needed to come from everyone as much as that everyone needed to build the Tabernacle.  The Israelites were fresh from generations of slavery and poverty and needed to see themselves as people with great resources and skills.  By having all the Jews contribute to the Tabernacle, God was showing them their abilities, wealth, and talents.  Through being givers of such magnitude, they could recognize their worthiness and value.

There are two ways we can ask for help in our homes.  One is focused on our need,

“I need help.  I’m overwhelmed.  Can you do x, y, or z?” 

That is not bad or wrong and is certainly sometimes the reality.  But think for a moment of the same help being contributed but with a whole different attitude.  What if it’s not about me, it’s about my kids? It’s important for our children to know they have worth, resources, skills, and talents that contribute to our families.  What if I ask my child for help not because I desperately need it, but because my child needs to give? 

When we need help in the moment we tend to ask the one who is most capable or easily available, but in truth, it’s a good idea for us to think proactively about what each child can contribute and how we can make that happen in the best times in the best way.  Here’s a simple example: for many years I have kept a lightweight battery operated vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.  This vacuum can easily be operated by a 3 year old and it is a real help to have my kitchen floor cleaned!  I also store dishes in bottom cupboards to allow younger children to unload dishwashers and set the table. 

My older kids also need me to think through how I can facilitate their contributing.  The older they get the less frequently they’re home!  But even my high school son who’s rarely home knows that he is a huge contributor to our family; we need him and count on him.

Finally, it may not be easy or obvious to figure out how a particularly challenging kid can be a meaningful contributor to the family.  This child needs it even more than the others!  We have to see and believe in his strengths and give him the responsibility to contribute positively to our family, so that he can begin to believe in himself and his abilities too.  The lessons from the Tabernacle are so profound! No one is exempt.  Everyone needs to be a giver, and everyone has what to contribute. By giving, we all, in actuality, receive far, far more.

Does God use art to reveal spiritual lessons?

January 28th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Hi. I’ve just seen your TV show about music complementing scripture and how it is used to help understand God’s intent in his words.

What about art being used in this way? (a picture says a thousand words)

Are there examples in scripture where God uses art to help people in their understanding?

Thanks,

John

Dear John,

We think you’re referring to one of our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV shows where we discussed that, when read correctly in synagogue, the Five Books of Moses are chanted in very specific ways handed down from Sinai. In addition, the service of the Levites in the Temple featured music and instruments. Music adds to the understanding of the Bible’s words and verses and touches our souls in ways that can bring us closer to God.

Visual arts, too, are part of God’s revelation. You have surely noticed how much detail is provided about the construction of each piece of the Tabernacle. The materials used, the dimensions and every other detail of construction is specified. This obviously isn’t in order to get featured in an article in House Beautiful magazine. Rather, each detail carries a spiritual message. For one example, see this Thought Tool: Vision – Mission – Vision.

An over all take-away for us is that God has gifted us with a wondrous world. We are constantly balancing the spiritual and the physical to best live in that world. Those of us with a connection to God try to be aware of the overwhelming consumerism and misplaced focus on materialism in developed countries today. However, condemning materialism too strenuously can lead to wrongly rejecting the physical part of life entirely.

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Harvey and Montgomery

October 29th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 17 comments

If you’ve never seen the delightful 1950 movie in which Jimmy Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd whose friend is a six-foot invisible rabbit eponymously named Harvey, you might enjoy it.  I too have an invisible friend, though I don’t know how tall he is because he is, well, invisible!  He happens to be a highly intelligent Martian named Montgomery, who is entirely and utterly unfamiliar with everything on earth.  I find it ever so useful to be able to solicit his opinion about, or his reaction to, various earthly events.  Some people dismiss my friend, and insist that all I am really doing is conducting thought experiments but to each his own.

Let me give you an example.  I introduced Montgomery the Martian to two very different families.  The first, residing in Beverly Hills, California, presents their children with the keys to a new BMW car on their sixteenth birthdays and engages a small army of housekeepers and gardeners to free each child from any onerous household chores.  The children address their parents by their first names and receive lavish allowances with very little supervision and few rules.

The second family lives in a small town near Nashville, Tennessee.  Each child carries the responsibility for some aspect of the family’s smooth running.  Each child also has a job outside of school and is expected to say, “Yes, Sir” or “No, Ma’am” to his parents.  The family attends church each Sunday together and dinner times are also family occasions.  The children take turns mowing the lawn and tending to the flower garden.

My questions to Montgomery were this: Which set of parents is more likely to raise children with an enduring respect for parents and siblings? Which set of children are more likely to grow up into young adults who will endlessly complain to expensive therapists about how their parents ruined their lives?

Montgomery weighed it up and concluded that the parents who gave so much to their children, asking nothing in return, were surely the parents who would enjoy enduring gratitude and honor from their children.  As his earthly friend, it was my duty to inform the Martian that he was wrong.  In families where frugality is a fact of life and children are expected to behave like responsible family members and to carry their weight, family relationships are far stronger.

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Grounded with the B52 Bomber

January 24th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

In January 1991, during “Desert Storm,” a group of American B52 Stratofortress bombers flew to Iraq, bombed their targets, and returned safely home after 35 non-stop hours airborne.  In September 1996, the same type of bomber destroyed Baghdad’s power stations as part of “Desert Strike”.

The enormous eight-engine bomber was again used in Yugoslavia in 1999, and played a major bombing and support role in Afghanistan in 2001. In November 2015, to deny recognition of China’s claim to some islands, B52s were flown through the region ignoring China’s demand to vacate the airspace.  During 2016, B52s based in Qatar flew many devastating bombing missions against Isis.

The United States simply does not possess a more capable long-range strategic bomber than the amazing 160 foot-long, 4 story high, Boeing-built Stratofortress.  Yet the truly amazing part of the B52 story is that the airplane first saw service in the United States Airforce in 1955.  For over sixty years, this airplane has been the backbone of America’s airborne power.

It is hard to imagine that the three Boeing engineers chiefly responsible for designing the B52 could have dreamed that their creation would play so important a role in American history for so long.  Without the B52 in their arsenal, several famous American leaders might well have failed to achieve their military and political objectives.  Though not nameless, those Boeing engineers are not nearly as well known as the political and military leaders who deployed the lethal airplane.

Most of us perform our daily work in relative obscurity.  We tackle our tasks, confront challenges, strive for success and face failures without ever knowing what vital long term consequences might result from what we did last month.  It’s a lot like raising children.  It doesn’t bring the fame that might come to the women heading General Motors or Yahoo but without the children being raised as productive and law-abiding citizens today, there wouldn’t be large corporations tomorrow.

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What an overreaction!

June 22nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“What an overreaction!” This exclamation came from a man who consulted me about some business problems. He was alluding to a former customer of his who angrily left him for a competitor and also bad-mouthed him to others. “We were late on a delivery and off he went on a rant,” he continued. “What an overreaction!”

My gentle questioning revealed that my client had not personally called the aggrieved customer to apologize nor had he offered any kind of compensation. But what was far more interesting was that I discovered that this occurrence was not the first time my client had delivered appalling service to this customer. It was not even the second time. It was the third. (more…)

Success You Can Smell

March 13th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I really hope that my children think of their childhood with the same sweet nostalgia that I do. Whenever the Lapin family embarked upon a trip, it was usually with at least fifteen suitcases, all of which needed to be loaded into our van. Though I could have done it myself quite quickly, we patiently waited while our young son laboriously loaded every piece of luggage, many of which were larger than he was.

My wife always shared the preparations for the Sabbath with our daughters, assigning some children to set the table while others cleaned the house until it shone. Planning menus and cooking were group efforts as well. Especially when the kids were very young, she could have prepared the house and meals for our family and our guests far more quickly herself.

By contrast, researchers recognize that generally, American children ignore or resist appeals to help. According to a recent UCLA study, compared to other countries and cultures, and even more importantly, compared to how we Americans used to raise children, parents today are focused on what they can do for their children and don’t think about what their children can do for them.

Were my wife and I taking unseemly advantage of free labor or doing our children a favor? Let’s look at a precedent from God.

From the moment they left Egypt the Israelites grumbled about almost everything.

…Why did you bring us out of Egypt

(Exodus 14:11-12)

The people complained against Moses saying what shall we drink?

(Exodus 15:24)

…the Children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron…

(Exodus 16:2)

The people argued with Moses…give us water

(Exodus 17:2)

They gathered against Aaron…make us a god..we don’t know where Moses is

(Exodus 32:1)

Eventually God told every person to bring of his possessions and get to work building the Tabernacle. This construction project and the service therein occupied the Israelites for many years and the complaining just about ceased.

After nightfall on Saturdays my family gathers for Havdalah. With this service we bid Shabbat farewell for another week and prepare ourselves for six days of productive endeavor. During the brief ceremony, we celebrate our sense of smell enjoying the fragrance of some spices, often cloves and cinnamon.

When a festival terminates, we also conduct a Havdalah ceremony but without any blessing on smelling the spices. Why the difference?

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that, amazingly, in our world, the actions of humans leave a longer-lasting impression than God’s actions. For instance, Mt. Sinai (where God acted) is largely unknown, whereas Mt. Moriah (where Abraham, Isaac, David, and Solomon acted) is still visited by pilgrims after 3,000 years. Ancient Jewish wisdom further explains that smell is the sense that most strongly links to our memories. I am sure you can think of smells that immediately transport you to images of your childhood.

Sabbath was scheduled every seven days by God but we Jews were commanded to set the dates of the festivals by our own calculation. Linking the Sabbath to a smell prolongs the sensation of that day. Since festivals have a human component, no fragrances are necessary for them to cling to us even after they are over.

We are more lastingly impacted by the things we do for God like building a Tabernacle than by the many things He does for us. The children of Israel appreciated God more, not less, by giving of themselves for His structure. Likewise, our children are more lastingly impacted when they participate in family life, rather than just being recipients of parents’ beneficence.

You can use this information to change important things in your own life. The problem is, you feel shackled to the status quo. It’s like an invisible force imprisons you, yet you yearn to escape. Passively waiting for God – or other people – to solve our problems isn’t the best way to activate change. There is a God-given solution in my audio CD Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt. We’re discounting it online this week so that it is easily accessible to help you change your life. I’d like you to take advantage of this offer now!

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