Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )
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GOOD MORNING! Last week I wrote about the two most important questions in life: "Is There a God?" and "Did He Give Us The Torah?" I recommended Permission to Believe and Permission to Receive both by Lawrence Kelemen (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242) for those who would like to delve into the questions.
This week (and in future weeks) I wish to present the Prophecy category of evidence that will demonstrate that there is a God and that He did give the Torah. How? One must understand that prophecy is not futurology or a just good guess, but it is a statement of what will be that goes against common logic, experience and the usual dynamics of the world. By presenting a prophecy and demonstrating that it has come true explicitly establishes that there is a Higher Source of knowledge from where the prophecy came and a Higher Control to ensure its fulfillment - God.
Here are the first 4 of 7 prophecies from the Torah which mark the 7 Wonders of Jewish History:
1. ETERNAL NATION
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews would be an eternal nation:
"And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your descendants after you, throughout the generations. An eternal covenant to be your God, and the God of your descendants after you." (Genesis 17:7)
This promise is repeated many times throughout the Torah (Leviticus 26:43, Deuteronomy 4:26-27, Deut. 28:63-64).
What does it take for a nation to survive as a distinct people? Historians will tell you that you need large numbers of people together in one land with a common language and shared history. Jewish history plays out opposite of the prerequisites. Not only that, but there are specific prophecies that we will be few in number, exiled and dispersed - yet we survive to this day while it is fair to say that most people have never heard of the Hittites, Emorites, Perizzites, Jebusites or Girgashites who were our contemporaries.
2. EXILE & DISPERSION
"And you, I will scatter among the nations, at the point of My drawn sword, leaving your country desolate and your cities in ruins." (Leviticus 26:33)
The dispersion of the Jewish People to the four corners of the globe is a completely unique phenomenon in human history. (There are 9 other dispersions of people from one land to another). Jews have wandered and settled in almost every land on earth - while somehow managing to maintain their distinct national identity.
Multiple exiles are unheard of, since after the first one the people generally disappear - they simply become assimilated among other peoples. In human history, multiple exiles and dispersion are unique only to the Jewish people.
3. FEW IN NUMBER
"God will then scatter you among the nations, and only a small number will remain among the nations where God shall lead you." (Deuteronomy 4:27)
To every other people, a small population spells extinction. We know from the records that the Romans kept about 2,000 years ago, there were between 8-10 million Jews living in the world. How many Jews do demographers say should be in the world today?
If in the same period of time, the Chinese went from a population of 30 million to over 1 billion people, there should be approximately 500 million Jews alive in the world today. After the Chinese and the Indians, the third largest ethnic group on the planet earth should be the Jews! There are virtually no more Jews in the world today than there were 2,000 years ago and yet throughout all this time, the Jews remained a distinct people.
Perhaps we survived in our exile because of the great love and tolerance of the host nations? It was not to be so. Here is what is prophesied in the Torah:
"Among those nations you shall find no respite, no rest for your foot. There God will make you cowardly, destroying your outlook and making life hopeless. You will live in constant suspense. Day and night, you will be terrified, never sure of your existence. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were night,' and in the evening you will say, 'If only it were morning!' Such will be the dread that your heart will feel and the sights that your eyes will see." (Deut. 28:65-67)
No other form of racial hatred comes close to anti-Semitism in its virulence, its intensity and its irrationality. If we look at the history of anti-Semitism, we see one unceasing chain of slaughter, pogroms, pillaging, expulsion, etc. There are horrendous levels of violence that lead up to the worst thing that can be done to a hated people: Genocide. Most nations in history have not been subjected to even one genocide. But in almost every generation there's an attempted Jewish genocide somewhere in the world on a macrocosmic or microcosmic scale. And yet we survived!
For the next two weeks, I'll write to help you prepare for Pesach (Passover). Then we will continue with the 7 Wonders of Jewish History!
For more on "Evidence of God's Existence" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe relays the Almighty's commands to refrain from building the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) on the Shabbat, to contribute items needed to build the Mishkan, to construct the components of the Mishkan and the appurtenances of the Cohanim. The craftsmen are selected, the work begins. The craftsmen report that there are too many donations, and for the first and probably the only time in fundraising history, the Jewish people are told to refrain from bringing additional contributions!
Pekudei includes an accounting of all the materials that went into the making of the Mishkan (the portable sanctuary) and details of the construction of the clothing of the Cohanim. The Tabernacle (another translation of Mishkan) is completed, Moses examines all of the components and gives his approval to the quality and exactness of construction, the Almighty commands to erect the Tabernacle, it's erected and the various vessels are placed in their proper place.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states with regard to Betzalel, the artisan in charge of creating the Mishkan (Portable Sanctuary), that the Almighty filled him with wisdom, insight and knowledge ...:
"...and to think thoughts to make with gold and with silver and with brass." (Exodus
What can this verse teach us about our own lives?
There are two types of skillful artisans. The first type of craftsman is one who is able to picture new designs in his mind. His fertile imagination enables him to create original works of art. This, wrote Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, is what the present verse is expressing. "And to think thoughts," that is, Betzalel had the ability to visualize entirely new artistic creations.
The second type is an expert in making fancy vessels with intricate designs though he may not be creative or original. After he sees what someone else has done, he learns to make similar things - perhaps even better than the original designer.
Our lesson: Whatever abilities the Almighty has blessed you with can be utilized for the honor of the Almighty. One does not need to be a Betzalel to serve the Almighty or lead a meaningful life.
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 24:
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You can't make sense of the present
unless part of you lives in the past.
-- Robert Harris
In Honor of