CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 5
In our time we celebrate the miracle of Purim with all of the trappings of a carnival: costumes,
drinking, and abundant merriment. This is how we understand our obligation to "publicize the
miracle" of Purim, so important that our Sages required women to hear the M'gilah, even as they
asserted that women who heard it would not understand it. We are fortunate that women today are
empowered to read, hear, and understand M'gilat Esther, especially because it is graced with a
female heroine who courageously saves her people.
The Sages included M'gilat Esther in the biblical canon because it is empowering for a small people
living in foreign lands and experiencing an acute absence of God.
In our day we are able to recognize that the first eight chapters compose an exquisite and literarily
ingenious novella: A Jewish woman goes undercover, marrying the dim and malleable king, who is
manipulated and duped by his prime minister, the personification of pure evil. Enjoined by her uncle,
the Jewish queen outsmarts and outlives the Jewish people's (and her own) nemesis.
Yet the impact of Esther is marred with the verses that portray Jews exacting revenge by killing tens
of thousands of their enemies. Even as we joyously embrace the many mitzvot of Purim-sending
one another gifts, giving charity to the poor, abundant feasting and merriment-we should also
acknowledge the text's turn toward bloodlust. It is an all-too-human impetus that diminishes the
miracle of hesteir panim, the unnamed and hidden God working in the background.
Over and over again the Torah warns to beware of adopting the practices of the Canaanites among
whom we will settle, and even to destroy their cultic sites (e.g., Exodus 34:12-14).
We live in a society where truth is under attack. Information that undermines people's beliefs
and opinions is rapidly dubbed "false facts." Conspiracies abound. In this era of Photoshop,
even photographs can be rejected as "fake." To avoid accusations of bias, politically motivated
fabrications are presented as legitimate alternatives to science.
Why are the idols we are told not to worship often described as "molten"? What goes into the molten
mix is unknown. Could it symbolize that fundamentally, they may not be how they appear? Similarly,
the false solutions being presented: They are pretty. They promise to resolve problems, if only we
believe them. They seem to be based on a kernel of truth. But ultimately, they are meant to deceive.
Ki Tisa warns that Canaanite ideas may be a "snare" leading us to believe a false "truth." Hearing
a refrain over and over again, people tend to give it increasing credence whether it comes from
Canaanite neighbors or Facebook friends.
When we are forced to choose, it is much easier to make up an excuse or try to ignore the dilemma.
For example, in our parashah, Aaron is complicit in making the Golden Calf. The pre-twentieth-century
commentators either try to find a way to let Aaron of the hook or ignore the incident completely.
We don't have that luxury.
Most of us are challenged by the need to raise money, whether for capital projects or for programs.
Our success, it would appear, is primarily dependent upon the commitment of our donors.
Would that we were in the position of Bezalel and Oholiab, who, when building the Tent of Meeting
in the wilderness, couldn't stop the donations coming in (!) and protested, The people have raised too
much money for the work involved (Exodus 36:5).
Of course, they should not have been surprised. The Israelite community had already demonstrated
its generosity when it came to the Golden Calf. There we read: And all the people took off the gold
rings that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron (Exodus 32:3).
In view of the overabundance of donations for the
Tent of Meeting, Moses puts out the word for every
ish v'ishah /" man and woman" to desist from
donating (Genesis 36:6). Referring to both male
and female in his commentary to Genesis 11:7,
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that "this
serves to guarantee sexual equality." He notes
that both words, ish v'ishah, come from the same
Hebrew root, thereby implying equal status. Would
that were the case today. Just look how women
are treated at the Kotel!
It is worth noting that whereas women were fully
involved in efforts to build the Tent of Meeting,
Midrash Tanchuma (Pinchas 7) observes that
they did not participate in building the Golden
Calf. Apparently, women demonstrated greater
discernment than men concerning where to invest
Parashat P'kudei invites us to consider the
construction of the Mishkan as an adumbration of
Creation. Torah recounts that having finished the
work of creation, God blessed it (Genesis 3:1-3).
When Moses saw that [Israel] had performed all
the work-as Adonai had commanded, so they
had done-Moses blessed them (Exodus 39:43).
As God created the universe from the blueprint
of Torah, so Israel created the Mishkan from
the blueprint of Torah. The Mishkan therefore
completes God's creation by supplying a nexus
between heaven and earth: the Holy of Holies and
a means of engagement: the altar. No wonder
the Mishkan is erected on the first day of the first
month (Exodus 40:1).
Thus was completed all the work of the Mishkan
in the Ohel Mo-eid. The Israelites did so; just
as Adonai had commanded Moses, so they did
(Exodus 39:32). Noting that the term for "work"
in both the account of Creation and here is
m'lachah, the S'fat Emet comments, "The Mishkan
redeemed doing itself... the labor of the Mishkan
redeemed every deed that exists in the world....
By means of the Mishkan, Israel separated out
the goodness within doing; the Mishkan was made
of it....Now all doing could follow the command
Sensitive to Torah's suggestion that Creation
and the Mishkan are opposite sides of the
same creative coin, the Rabbis identify "work" as
the tasks that contributed to the Mishkan. How
might we define "work" today to honor
the created universe, our aspiration to
engage with God, and our own sense of
godly endeavor-and incorporate this in our
celebration of Shabbat?
(Continued on page 6)
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 1
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 2
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 3
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 4
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 5
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 6
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 7
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 8
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 9
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 10
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 11
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 12