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Teruma: How Do You Tie Your Shoelaces?

Have you ever tried (and failed) to study Rashi on Parashat Teruma?

Have you ever looked for instructions for a technical task (changing the back wheel of a bicycle, changing a plug) but found it more effective to watch a YouTube video?

Whenever I think of reading the complicated technical details of the Mishkan, the following quote from Prof. Haym Soloveitchik comes to mind:

"Words are good for description, even better for analysis, but pathetically inadequate for teaching how to do something. (Try learning, for example, how to tie shoe laces from written instructions.) One learns best by being shown, that is to say, mimetically. When conduct is learned from texts... the simplest gesture becomes acutely complicated." (Rupture and Reconstruction)

And that is why Moshe was SHOWN visual images! We are told four times:

כְּכֹ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֤ר אֲנִי֙ מַרְאֶ֣ה אוֹתְךָ֔ אֵ֚ת תַּבְנִ֣ית הַמִּשְׁכָּ֔ן וְאֵ֖ת תַּבְנִ֣ית כׇּל־כֵּלָ֑יו - וכֵן תַּעֲשֽׂוּ׃

Exactly as I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings—so shall you make it. (25:7)

וּרְאֵ֖ה וַעֲשֵׂ֑ה בְּתַ֨בְנִיתָ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה מׇרְאֶ֖ה בָּהָֽר

Note well, and follow the patterns for them that are being shown you on the mountain. (25:40)

וַהֲקֵמֹתָ֖ אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֑ן כְּמִ֨שְׁפָּט֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הׇרְאֵ֖יתָ בָּהָֽר

Then set up the Tabernacle according to the manner of it that you were shown on the mountain. (26:30)

נְב֥וּב לֻחֹ֖ת תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה אֹת֑וֹ כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר הֶרְאָ֥ה אֹתְךָ֛ בָּהָ֖ר כֵּ֥ן יַעֲשֽׂוּ׃

Make it hollow, of boards. As you were shown on the mountain, so shall they be made. (27:8)

Should, could the Torah have offered us pictures and architectural drawings rather than words? I don't know. Our tradition is a text tradition. God made the universe with words בדבר ה' שמים נעשו and the Mishkan is described in words. At Sinai ותמונה אינכם רואים זולתי קול (דברים ד'). I am wondering about text vs. image.

But if you are finding the text of Teruma hard to get through, I think this explains it. And you are not alone. Moshe Rabbeinu couldn't understand it either! Rashi tells us:

וראה ועשה. ...מַגִּיד שֶׁנִּתְקַשָּׁה מֹשֶׁה בְמַעֲשֵׂה הַמְּנוֹרָה עַד שֶׁהֶרְאָה לוֹ הַקָּבָּ"ה מְנוֹרָה שֶׁל אֵשׁ :

See and construct: This teaches us that Moses found it hard to fathom the construction of the Menorah, until God showed him a(n image) of a Menorah out of fire."

I think there is another thing that we can learn from this parsha. That God is a caring pedagogue.

He saw that Moshe was struggling to understand all the complex design-details of the Miskan.

He took the time and patience to teach Moshe, visually, such that he could grasp the material.

That is a good lesson for any parent or educator.

Shabbat Shalom!


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