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Last week in Parshat Terumah I suggested to you that the keruvim, which appear three times on the Mishkan, these cherubs, usher us through three partitions on our way to creating a world as it were, for God. God made a little apartment for us in his everything. We call that our universe. We reciprocate by making a little apartment for him, we call that the Tabernacle, the Mishkan.
What I like to explore with you today is how do we even go about this business of trying to make a world for God? You know, when God made our little apartment for us, when God made the universe, God had to create a very carefully constructed universe in order for to be able to support life. The constants of the universe had to be very finely tuned in order for it to work for beings that are carbon based, that breathe air, that live within a certain temperature range. And that’s even before you get to all the delicate balance between the various force strengths of the universe that allows for such things as stars and planets and all that good stuff out of which our universe is made. So if we are going to reciprocate, if we are going to create this little world as it were, this little apartment that’s perfectly suited for God, within our world, I mean how do we go about doing that? We have no idea what God’s environment is like. How come we try to recreate something we have no concept of? Sounds insane. I would like to suggest an audacious theory to you. There is a logic to how we do this and the secret lies in the three partitions upon which we find the keruvim in the tabernacle.
I mentioned to you last week that those three partitions seem to mirror the three partitions, the three separations that God used when he created our world and if you think carefully, there’s a reason for that. If God created our world by installing three basic partitions, the only way we can get back to God’s world is by going backwards through those partitions, by taking them down. You see we may not know what God’s world is like but we do know one thing for sure, it is not like our world. So to get back to God’s world you’d have to deconstruct our world. Think of it this way, in any construction project, there’s two kind of phases of construction. There’s creating the infrastructure for something, the framework and then creating the superstructure, the stuff that’s builds off of that framework. So think about in terms of God creating the universe. I’d like to argue that the infrastructure is the havdalot, the separations. There were three of them and they created the conditions that allowed the universe to exist, everything else was building on top of that. So to get back to that pristine world of God, that world before he started ordering and making things specifically for us, we’d have to clear away all that infrastructure and that’s what we do when we go backwards, through the havdalot, through the partitions in the Mishkan. It sounds like a crazy theory but let’s see if it actually works.
Let’s revisit those fundamental three havdalot, those three partitions in creation. We may find an intriguing one to one correspondence between those and the ones in the Mishkan. I am going to read through the basic three havdalot in creation with you. It’s very hard to read the first chapter of Genesis, it doesn’t seem like much of a scientific account of creation at least as we currently understand the science. As I have often said, the Torah is a guide book, it’s not trying to be a science book, it’s telling you what you need to know about creation so you can be a spiritual person and build your relationships properly. So I guess when I am saying is that the Torah is going to take a decidedly human perspective, upon events that happened in creation and if you wanted to get back to the actual events have some sense what the Torah is talking about, you’d have to factor out the human perspectives almost like an algebra equation. Let X equal what happens sort of objectively in creation. Now multiply that by how all that matters to human what they need to know to lead their lives. Torah’s account of the 6 days of creation. How the Torah thinks all these matters to you. So if you ever wanted to have some sort of inkling about X, about the Torah’s view on creation itself and what actually, objectively happened, you just have to sort of divide both sides of the equation by the human perspective and then you’d be left with X, the objective account.
Let’s actually try it as we walk through the Torah’s account of creation in Genesis, chapter 1, focusing on the three great havdalot, these three great infrastructure projects. The first havdalah, the first great separation in the infrastructure of the world, was between light and darkness, vayavdel Elokim bein ha’or uvein hachoshech. And that sounds very simple and God even gives these nice and simple human sounding names, he called the light yom, day, and he called the darkness laylah, night. But those are very human perspectives of what happened. God gave these names that we could relate to, we can relate to day, we can relate to night. Objectively it can’t have been night and day as we know it. The Sun hadn’t been created yet and the truth is as you begin to think about this strange separation between light and darkness, the more strange and otherworldly it actually becomes. Let’s factor out the human elements now and talk about what the Torah might really be telling us.
The first thing that God did was say, vayehi-or, ‘let there be light.’ And most of us would have imagine it is a bright light everywhere, all you see is light, it is huge, blinding lightness but then the Torah tells us something very strange. Vayavdel Elokim bein ha’or uvein hachoshech the God separated between light and dark but where is the darkness, it is only light, there is no darkness. The Torah seems to be saying is that right there at that moment, before God separated between darkness and light, the light actually had darkness mixed into it in some strange way. Now we can conceive of that, the world we live in, the post separation world, that doesn’t admit of allowing darkness and light to coexist in that strange kind of way. But it’s almost like you have to imagine, some kind of crazy swirl of dark energy and light energy together, it is as if darkness is actually the something, not just a nothing. You can’t swirl together a something and a nothing. You can swirl together a something and another something. There was this great light energy and there was this dark energy and actually when we start thinking about that, that’s actually what science tells us too. Dark energy and dark matter. It’s the stuff that we can’t see, that’s completely impervious to light. Light does not reflect of it, light is not absorbed by it. It does not emit light, it is ultimate darkness but it is there. We cannot ever see it, we perceive it indirectly. We know it’s there because its gravitational pull exist, we can measure it but it is dark. According to current theories dark energy and dark matter actually account for 95% of the matter in energy in our universe. Only 5% of it is the light stuff, the stuff that we can see.
So I am speculating here but I am suggesting that maybe God’s first great separation between dark energy and light energy, creates light as we know it. The first grade infrastructure project.
And what was the second? Well according to the Torah, sky that separate between upper water and lower water. Lower water - sees, upper water – seems to be water vapor, clouds and between that, sky. What’s the significance of having created this sky, why is that better for us than if it were never there? If you think about what life would be like if it was never there, if it was just a big water world, who knows sky, wouldn’t have a place to breath, I mean human beings can’t breathe water, we can’t even move around. So God created this habitable human space for us where there is oxygen and all these nice things and space that we can walk in and that is the significance of this sky space between these waters. Or, to be more precise about it, it is the human significance of the space. God’s talking to us in human terms. See, now you have a place to move around and now you have a place to breathe, isn’t that good for you? And now, factor out the human part what you get. Not the creation of habitable human space, you get the creation of space itself. If the first havdalah was about creating light as we know it, the second havdalah was about creating space as we know it.
And what was the third great partition? Yehi meorot birekia hashamayim, ‘Let there be luminaries in the heaven’. The Sun, the moon, the stars now, stop. If you were to think about what the significance of the sun is, you know most of us would say, well, there wouldn’t be no life without the sun. It is great energy source, we have heat, that’s wonderful but the Torah doesn’t talk about the sun that way. It talks about the Sun as a marker of time. These luminaries are lehavdil bein ha hayom uvein halailah, to separate between day and night. Vehayu leotot ulemoadim uleyamim veshanim, there’d be signs to help you count days and to help you count years. You tell time with light and dark cycles of the heavenly luminaries. One light and dark cycle, here on earth, we call that a day. One light and dark cycle of the moon, we call that a month. One light and dark cycle and in terms of how long the nights are, we call that a year. The luminaries give us a way of marking time, of helping us, humans find our place in time, so we don’t feel quite so disoriented. Now what might be the Torah really be talking about here? It’s talking about us humans, about how humans mark time. Factor out the human part, you get the creation of time itself.
The three great infrastructure projects of creation, light as we know it and space and time, as we know it. It is what makes a habitable world for these carbon based life forms we call humans. But God didn’t need any of that for his own existence. So to create God’s world, you’d go backwards through these partitions, to undo the infrastructure and now, let’s talk about the three great partitions in the Mishkan.
The first partition, the first place on the outside where we meet the keruvim, on the curtains. What do those separate between? They separate between the Mishkan and the outside world. So there you are, you are in the outside world. Butterflies are chirping, the sun is shining and you go through the yeriot and you are inside the Mishkan and you look up and what don’t you see? You don’t see the heavenly luminaries anymore. Symbolically at least, we have got rid of them. And now, you are in the Mishkan and you are looking at the second partition, the parochet, the curtain with its keruvim woven into it and that separates according to the Torah, between the holy and the holy of holies, the most sacred space of the Mishkan. Now what’s the difference between these two spaces? People could be in the holy but not in the holy of holies. The Torah warns that if you go into the holy of holies, you die because it is non habitable human space. That’s what happens when you go through the second partition, the second partition in creation was the partition that created habitable human space, created the rakia. Once you go through that partition backwards, you are not in habitable human space anymore. So of course, human beings can’t live there. Only one person is ever allowed there, it is the kohen gadol, the high priest but what must he be wearing – not his regular cloths, described in this week’s Parsha, the cloths of gold but special cloths and what color were they? They were white, all white. Why do you think that would be?
Where are you now after you’ve penetrated back through the second great havdalah of creation? What realm are you in? Light. The only thing that exists in this nonhuman world, is light. So of course, the suit that you’d have to wear, to be able to survive, would be a suit of light. And then, there you are, you are in the holy of holies. You are the kohen gadol wearing his white cloths and you look at the only thing there. It is the holy ark and what do you see? Well, remember you have passed through the second boundary, the boundary that created habitable human space, the boundary that created space itself. And now something about the aron seems strange. It helps us understand a mysterious thing that the Gemara in Tractate Yoma tells us: Makom aron eino min hamidah, the ark didn’t take up any space in the Mishkan. Crazy! Well the Gemara has its whole mathematical calculation, the width of the Temple was only twenty amot, and yet the Gemara knows from elsewhere that there were 10 amot of free space on either side of the aron, of the holy ark. The Gomorrah draws the inexplicable conclusion that the ark itself didn’t take up any space. Well, where is the ark? It is in the realm of no space. So of course it doesn’t look like it takes up any space.
Okay, so there you are, you are in the holy of holies and you are looking at the last, final separation. It’s the kaporet, and there the two cherubs, the two keruvim on top of it and the kaporet separates between what’s inside the ark and what’s outside of the ark. Well, what is inside the ark? It’s the two tablets.
The Torah that was given by God to Moses, there’s a strange Midrashic text, in Bamidbar Rabbah. It tells us something almost unimaginable. That Torah, before it was given to Moses at Sinai, that Torah that took the form of words on those two tablets. The Midrash says, before it went on the tablets, it was words of black fire written on parchment of white fire. Black fire on white fire, black energy and white energy, it was the swirl. Welcome to God’s world. We have recreated so to speak, this little piece of God’s world, inside our own by going backwards symbolically, mystically, architecturally through the three partitions that God put into place, constructing our universe.
1. Noach: Why Aren't Dinosaurs In the Torah?
2. Lech Lecha: The Battle For Abraham's Legacy
3. Vayeira: Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael and...Exodus?
4. Vayeira: Epilogue
5. Chayei Sarah: Eliezer and Samuel's Surprising Connection
6. Toldot: What Is Isaac's Legacy?
7. Vayeitzei: Understanding Rachel's World
8. Vayishlach: From Jacob to Israel
9. Vayeishev: Does God Speak To Us Today?
10. Miketz: Reversing the Sale of Joseph
11. Vayigash: Understanding Pharaoh's Dream
12. Vayechi: A Tap On The Shoulder
13. Shmot: Does God Really "Love" Us?
14. Va'era: Seeing God in Science
15. Bo: God's Justice In Action
16. Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?
17. Beshalach: Epilogue
18. Yitro: Seeing Ten Commandments in the Burning Bush
19. Mishpatim: Does Our History Become Laws?
20. Mishpatim: Epilogue
21. Terumah: Angels In the Tabernacle? Part I/2
22. Tetzaveh: Angels In the Tabernacle?- Part 2/2
23. Ki Tisa: A Closer Look At Kiddush
24. Pekudei: A Giant Chiasm In Sefer Shmot
25. Vayikra: How Can We Relate To Sacrifices Today?
26. Tzav: A Deeper Look At The Priestly Role
27. Tzav: Epilogue
28. Shemini: What Does Aaron Teach Us About Loss?
29. Tazria-Metzora: Rejoining the Community
30. Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Social Justice...and Sacrifices?
31. Emor: An Epic View of Jewish Holidays
32. Behar-Bechukotai: Walking With God
33. Bamidbar: Why We Count
34. Beha'alotecha: Where It All Went Wrong
35. Shelach: How Can We Relate To Such a Vengeful God?
36. Korach: Why Did Korach Rebel?
37. Chukat: Why Did Moses Hit The Rock?
38. Balak: What Is Israel's Purpose In The World?
39. Pinchas: What Is True Leadership?
40. Matot-Masei: The Art of Negotiation
41. Devarim: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 1/2
42. Va'etchanan: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 2/2
43. Eikev: Why Does The Nation Of Israel Merit The Land?
44. Re'eh: Why Do We Need Both Oral and Written Law?
45. Shoftim: The Significance of Saving Private Ryan
46. Ki Teitzei: How To Merit Long Life
47. Ki Tavo: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 1
48. Nitzavim: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 2/2
49. Vayeilech: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 1/3
50. Ha'azinu: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 2/3
51. V'Zot Habracha: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 3/3
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