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February 16, 2015 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Terumah

In this week’s portion, God gives Moses a variety of directions for the Tabernacle.  Among other things, God tells Moses to get “acacia-wood” (Exodus 25:5).

Where does this wood come from? Rashi writes  “Rabbi Tanchuma explained that our father Jacob foresaw with the holy spirit that the Israelites were destined to build a Mishkan in the desert, so he brought cedars to Egypt and planted them. He commanded his sons to take them with them when they left Egypt.”

By contrast, according to the Soncino Chumash Ibn Ezra says the Jews “found this wood in a forest near Sinai.”

This illustrates a common distinction between Torah commentators: some prefer to spin fabulous tales of prophecy and miracles, while others prefer to limit miracles to those obvious from the text of the Torah.  I prefer the latter view, since I believe that there is already a larger world religion that seems ideally suited to people who are willing to fall for absolutely anything (hint: it is as big as Islam and isn’t Islam).

Although I am often tempted to dismiss fairy-tale midrashim as completely worthless, I have to admit that there is probably some value in wild-eyed legends: they hold the attention of children of all ages, and are sometimes useful for making broader ideological points.

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