May My Mercy Will Overcome My Anger: Parashat Trumah and the Labor of Love

Parashat Trumah deals with the creation of the Tabernacle. It details the artifacts and the structure of the Tabernacle, and it holds a promise: “let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Dwell among them, meaning a spiritual presence that resides in all members of the congregation. Parashat Trumah stresses generosity, doing and seeing: “And see that thou make them after their pattern,” meaning that the sanctuary on earth reflects the sanctuary in heaven.

One instruction states: “And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle.” Midrash Tanchuma suggests that God’s willingness to come down and dwell under curtains of goat’s hair indicates God’s love towards his people:

I have loved you. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: See how much I love you. The distance of the earth to the firmament is a distance of five hundred years’ journey, and the distance from the first firmament to the second firmament is also a distance of five hundred years’ journey, and the distance from each firmament to the next is another five hundred years’ journey, making the total distance through the universe a seven thousand years’ journey.14The seven firmaments plus the intervening areas total a distance of seven thousand walking years. And the step of the beasts, The legendary beast that draws the Divine Chariot, is a distance of five hundred and fifteen years’ journey, and there is no need to estimate the distance above the hoofs of the beasts to the heavenly throne! And the Throne is above them all… Yet see how much I love you that I leave all of this because of my love for you to tell you: And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent. Make for Me curtains of goats’ hair that I may come to dwell among you.

The sanctuary on earth reflects the sanctuary in heaven: the curtains of goats’ hair reflect the stretching out of the heavens like a curtain:

R. Jacob the son of Issi asked: Why does it say; I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth? Because the Tabernacle is equal to the creation of the world itself. How is that so? Concerning the first day, it is written: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and it is written elsewhere: Who stretched out the heavens like a curtain, and concerning the Tabernacle it is written: And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair.

May my mercy will overcome my anger

In Brachot the Sages discuss the interdependence between God and Israel, and say that God is also obliged by Tefillin. What is God’s prayer? It is a prayer on mercy:

God says: May it be My will that My mercy will overcome My anger towards Israel for their transgressions (Brachot 7a)

In modern times how can we find meaning in the meticulous details of the Tabernacle? What is the connection between the sanctuary on earth and the sanctuary in heaven?

Our relationships with our family members and our loved ones are the most challenging relationships in our lives; these relationships have the power to provoke our anger, but also to beg for our mercy. In a sense the sanctuary on earth and the sanctuary in heaven come to life in the labor of love we invest in our children and loved ones.

Psalm describes children as the property of their parents: “As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of one’s youth.” Children are the arrows the parent-archer sends into the world. They are his to guide and use.

In his poem “On Children,” Gibran Kahlil Gibran suggests a different more compassionate interpretation. Children are their parents’ labor of love, they are deposited in their hands, but they are not their property to have nor to hold. The parents are the bow that sends the children into the world, not as possession but as free individuals.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
     And he said:
     Your children are not your children.
     They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
     They come through you but not from you,
     And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

     You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
     For they have their own thoughts.
     You may house their bodies but not their souls,
     For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
     You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
     For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
     You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
     The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
     Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
     For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

   ~ On Children, Kahlil Gibran

Feature Photo: Into the Wild, Lightroom.

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