First come the innermost pieces of furniture: the ark in which the tablets of the covenant will be stored. The Ark of the Covenant Is Not of This World By fireflythegreat cc: flickr
Rabbi Gil Nativ finds in parashat ‘Teruma’ the way to make peace in the world. The month of Adar that begins on Friday, contains joy and a new message.
People usually construct or purchase their home before furnishing it. But when God instructs Moses how to construct the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary, in this week’s portion, Terumah, it is from the inside out.
First come the innermost pieces of furniture: the ark in which the tablets of the covenant will be stored [Exodus 25:10-22], then the table for the bread of display [23-30], and the menorah [31-40]. Only after does God describe the large tent in which these sacred objects will be placed [26:1-14] and the fence around the court which surrounds the tent [15-30].
The order of instructions, from the inside to the outside, teaches an essential lesson: Peace begins at home. We should first endeavor to live peacefully within our families before we make peace within our communities and then with our neighbors. And peace in our immediate surroundings should encourage us to work for universal peace.
Peace within the family according to the Jewish tradition
Shalom Bayit, peace within the family, is an essential Jewish value. The rabbis showed the extent of its importance by teaching that God deliberately misquoted Sarah in order to maintain peace between her and Abraham [Talmud, B.M. 87a].
Moreover, it is said that God’s name should be erased in the bitter water trial to restore peace between husband and wife [Talmud Sukka 53b]. The goal of “the second coming” of the prophet Elijah will be to restore peace between parents and children [Mishnah Eduyot 8,7 referring to Malachi 3:23-24 ].
Moving outward, peace within each family may pave the way to peace among our people: We must learn to live together in spite of the many differences between our various parties and denominations. The biblical prohibition lo titgodedu (You must not cut yourselves) [Deut.14:1] is explained by the rabbis to mean, “You shall not form rival groups” [Talmud, Yevamot 13b-14a].
Like the fence that surrounds the perimeter of the Mishkan, the final goal should be peace among all nations, including the people of Israel. The dream of universal peace began with the prophecies of Isaiah [Chapter 2] and Micah [Chapter 4]. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,”.
Both prophets believed that international peace will be possible when all nations agree “to go up the mountain of the Lord… so that the God of Jacob will instruct them to walk in his paths…”And yet Micah added, even in those messianic times the nations will be free to worship their own deities – a vision of religious pluralism that seems to go hand in hand with universal peace.
The entire month of Adar reflects the joy of Purim | Purim Parade By Flavio@Flickr. cc: flickr
The message of joy of Purim
Our Torah portion, Terumah, coincides this year with the beginning of the month of Adar. The entire month of Adar reflects the joy of Purim, and tradition teaches that when the month begins, “joy should be increased” [Talmud, Ta’anit 29a].
In the story of Esther, the Jews wanted to retaliate against Haman’s intention to annihilate our people by annihilating all Haman’s descendants including his 10 sons. The rabbis, though, claimed that Haman’s grandchildren (literally: sons of his sons) studied Torah at Bnai Berak, meaning that the grandchildren of this master anti-Semite not only survived, but even converted to Judaism [Talmud, Gittin 57b, Sanhedrin 96b].
Making peace with long-time enemies is a great art. Greater still is transforming enemies into friends. It can only be done through a gradual process of building mutual trust and reciprocity. We Jews, like most other groups, have a long way to go toward peace. The month of Adar is a good time to begin.
In memory of my sister, Shlomit (Nativ) Sela, who passed away on the 28th of Shevat, 5761. Shlomit lived up to her name. She lived in peace with both herself and those around her.