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Before going out into the world

ציור: אהובה קליין
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

I wanted to write about the elections but in the end I am writing about the Torah portion. Here's why. In this week's parasha, dozens of passages are devoted to the garments worn by the High Priest (Kohen Gadol). In last week's parasha, dozens of passages were devoted to the materials used in construction of the Mishkan. Both the Kohen Gadol garments and the Mishkan building materials were extremely costly - precious gems, silver and gold, purple wool, expensive fabrics. This is incredibly strange. After all, we are talking about a people that has just left Egypt and will soon build a home for itself in the Promised Land. Why waste so much time and money on spiritual structures and accessories? Why not just turn to business and save money towards the physical building that would be involved in settling the Land of Israel? Clearly, the Torah is teaching us about priorities. First of all, erect a Mishkan, a spiritual center that is the most lavish and dignified that it can possibly be, a constant reminder of Hashem's presence on earth. Then, go to great lengths to make sure that the people take notice of the Kohen Gadol and be reminded through him of their identity as servants of Hashem. Without this recognition, there will be no spiritual tools for dealing with life's many challenges.
We were preoccupied this week with politics which, while important, do not define who we are. The garments of the Kohen Gadol and the Mishkan remind us that, above all, the people of Israel need to know who they are, the Source of their strength, and their purpose on earth. It is in their identity and in their mission that they primarily need to invest their talents, their time, and their money. And once they have their priorities in order, they will be able to meet every challenge that comes their way.


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