Triennial Reading-Terumah, Exodus Chapter 26,
verse 1, through Chapter 26, verse 30
Second Torah, Parshat Zachor, Deuteronomy
Chapter 25, verses 17-19
Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark. Inside the Ark were the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. There were other items in the Holy of Holies that we know about through tradition. There was an urn with Mannah in it as testimony to these events for future generations. In addition, there was the anointing oil that Moshe had made to anoint the Kohanim in the Tabernacle. Next to the Aron was the Staff of Aharon which had sprouted flowers and almonds (Numbers 17:25). The High Priest’s vestments were also kept there. The broken Tablets of the first set would be in the Holy of Holies as well. In addition to this list was also the Torah scroll that Moshe had written himself, also right outside the Aron.
This entire Parshah is puzzling to us. We live primarily in Exile, and we have no Mishkan or Holy Temple. There is no High Priest and there are no sacrifices. What good then does it do us to read about how the Mishkan was constructed? Why do we have to know how the beams and pillars were made and what their dimensions were, and how the priestly vestments were made? What use is it to us to know how the sacrifices were offered? There are no practical applications of these things today. If you are going to tell me that we need them to know how to do it in the future, it is really not necessary. The future construction of these utensils and the Holy Temple will come only when the Mashiach is here. And by definition the Mashiach will be the King and he will teach us how to make all these items and how to keep them. So, our understanding of this portion and its intricacies are subject to the Mashiach’s review and endorsement. Without his say the future is not going to happen. Therefore, this question remains: why read and study it if there is no application for this knowledge today?
One answer we glean from rabbinical writings is that studying these portions of the Torah earns for us the merit of actually performing the construction of the holy objects.
Maftir: Parshat Zachor
The second Torah reading this morning is one that gives this Shabbat its name, Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance. We are commanded to remember the atrocities of Amalek. They attacked the stragglers of B’Nai Yisrael, those least able to defend themselves. We are told that, in every generation, members of Amalek rise up to do us harm. History has shown us that this teaching is, regrettably, true. We always commemorate this Shabbat right before Purim, a story of a member of Amalek seeking to wipe us out.
The Haftorah provides us with another example of the evil of Amalek, who attacked the Jews in the Wilderness and still constituted a threat in the days of King Saul. Saul’s failure to totally annihilate Amalek, as God commanded, sets up later attacks on Israel. It also spells the end of his favor in God’s eyes, and leads to his removal as monarch.
Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.
Rabbi David Grossman