This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks.
Two strikingly similar phrases appear in back-to-back chapters of the book of Exodus regarding the construction of the Mishkan, the desert Tabernacle, the portable spiritual home of the Israelites. First, a pair of cherubim (winged angelic beings) are commissioned to sit atop the Ark, facing each other, which the text describes as “ish el achiv,” “a man to his brother.” Then in the following chapter, we learn about how the Mishkan structure itself is to be assembled, with planks of wood whose tenons and sockets fit together “isha el achotah,” “a woman to her sister.”
These two phrases are identical, save for the one (notable) difference of gender. The reasons for the difference is straightforward: k’ruvim (cherubim) is a masculine noun in Hebrew and yadot (tenons) a feminine noun. However, the visual pictures the two verses paint are quite different: the cherubim’s orientation dictates that they face in toward each other, whereas the planks must be laid in parallel, side-by-side.
In a place of privilege, the cherubim reside in the center of the Tabernacle, inside the Holy of Holies, on top of the Ark that contains the tablets of the commandments. And yet their face-to-face orientation exists only within the confines of the side-by-side planks, which form the very structure of the Tabernacle.
This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks. This shoulder-to-shoulder framework — with directional alignment toward a common goal, and through inter-group partnerships and alliances — allows us to build the Tabernacles of today: communities and societies capable of housing the most intimate face-to-face encounters.
In a summer where there is more than enough hard news to go around, this Sunday's victory by the US team at the Women's World Cup is a wonderful cause for celebration in and of itself! If it had just been a win by the US Women's Soccer Team, with a couple of Seattle players in pivotal roles, dayeinu, it would have been enough! But it was so much more than that, and a great reminder of what we're trying to embody here at Kavana.
In this week's Torah portion, Sh’lach L'cha, the Israelites near the end of their 40 year journey through the wilderness. As they stand on the eastern banks of the Jordan river, wondering about the promised land that lies on the other side, God instructs Moses to send out twelve spies (one from each tribe) to scout out the land and bring back a report.
This week's Torah portion, B'ha'alotcha, begins with a command to Aaron, that as preparations for use of the Tabernacle (mishkan) are completed, he is to "set up the menorah, and let the seven lamps give light." Perhaps you can picture the seven-branched menorah, famously featured on Israeli coins and also in a carving on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The menorah is a central symbol of the Jewish people, dating back to ancient times. But why are there seven branches, and why is it emphasized that each of the seven lamps must give off its own light?