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L’chvod Rav Avi, Rabbi Lopatin, Rabbi Linzer, Rabbi Love, Rav Katz and the rest of the faculty and staff, Obviously, we are grateful that you have created a holy place of learning for both Chai and Tzachi. But do you realize the profound influence you have had and continue to have in our lives? Thank you for helping us to create an open orthodox home where Torah is observed consciously. Thank you for modeling for us how to live the Torah that we learn. Thank you for helping us to raise our children with the knowledge that they could question anything that did not make sense to them, and that that is a proper and healthy attitude to apply to all aspects of Torah living. It brings us tremendous comfort and gives us strength knowing that Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is here to inspire and guide all of us.

With heartfelt thanks,
Estelle and Harvey Posner
Parents of Chai Posner (YCT ’10) and Tzachi Posner (YCT ’17)

What Communities Are Saying About YCT Rabbis

Eytan Yammer has provided remarkable leadership in the synagogue and the community. Rabbi Yammer’s sensitivity and learning have been a great gift for the congregation, which is made up of members with extremely diverse backgrounds and practices. And Rabbi Yammer carries his deep knowledge with humility… He and Marisa are respected and loved in the community.

Daniel J. Siegel

Knesseth Israel Congregation

Birmingham, Alabama

Home arrow Learning arrow Parshat Vayakhel
Parshat Vayakhel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Libi Adler   
Thursday, 24 February 2011

Details Give Us Equal Access to the Divine

February 25-26, 2011/ 22 Adar 1 5771

By Rabbi Avi Weiss

No less than seven portions are dedicated to the building of the Tabernacle and the sacrificial service offered there.  One wonders why so much detail?  This is especially troublesome when compared to the dearth of Biblical verses dealing with arguably, more relevant subjects such as Jewish ritual and Jewish ethical principles.  

My dear friend, Rabbi Saul Berman suggests that one must first understand the Torah regulations of the Kohen (Jewish Priest), who ministers in the Tabernacle, in order to answer our question.  

We are constantly reminded of the limits set for the Kohen.  The Torah curtails their ownership rights, prohibits their contact with the dead and prescribes constant bowing to God during prayer by the highest priest, the Kohen Gadol.

The Kohen could not own land.  Note that Joseph never acquires land belonging to the Egyptian Priests as he prepares for the years of famine.  (Genesis 47:22)  Their title to real estate was inviolate.  In contrast, Jewish Priests were always to remain landless - marking boundaries over their material power. 

The Kohen had no contact with the dead.  Ancient Priests often took money for intervening on behalf of deceased souls.  In contrast, Jewish law insists that the Kohen never be in a position to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable - the surviving relatives.  Hence, the Torah declares the dead to be off limits to the Kohen.  (Leviticus 21:1-9)

The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) bowed at the conclusion of every one of the Amidah's ninteen blessings.  This is in contrast to everyone else who bows only four times during this silent devotion. The highest of priests, the Kohen Gadol, who could easily be caught up with his lofty spiritual position, is reminded that he is not all mighty-he must constantly give homage to the Almighty.  (Berakhot 34a-b)

These kinds of limits built into the function of the Kohen help answer why the text dealing with the Tabernacle and sacrifices is so elaborate.  Precise detail in these sections forces the Kohen to be accountable to the people.  If the Jewish Priests deviated in any way from the norm, the common folk, basing themselves on the text explicitly spelled out in the Torah, could challenge them.  The Jewish Priest could not claim to have special hidden knowledge of how to reach God.  It was all laid out in the text.  

Hence, Rabbi Berman concludes, Jewish law stands in stark opposition to the ancient codes and even many contemporary forms of law, which give advantage to the powerful.   Often built into these systems are distinctions between the haves and the have-nots.  

The Torah declares no!  All human beings are created in the image of God. All have equal access to the Divine. All are holy. 



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