Thursday, March 23, 2017

Random Musing Before Shabbat Vayakhel/Pekudei 5777–Bell, Pomegranate, Bell, Pomegranate

I’m starting off this musing with a thought that I plan to repeat later. Will I repeat it verbatim or not? Does it matter? Time will tell.

פַּעֲמֹ֤ן וְרִמֹּן֙ פַּעֲמֹ֣ן וְרִמֹּ֔ן עַל־שׁוּלֵ֥י הַמְּעִ֖יל סָבִ֑יב לְשָׁרֵ֕ת

A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe for officiating in… (Ex. 39:26)

I don’t know why I constantly find myself drawn back to this imagery. We first encounter it in parashat Tetzaveh, which we read just a few weeks back.  The first time, the text is slightly different:

A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the garment (Ex. 28:34)

I wrote one of my favorite musings over the years based on that first occurrence of those words in parashat Tetzaveh, Aharon’s Bells. I suppose I could just as easily have drawn upon the text here in Pekudei as inspiration for that musing. I was always aware of the repetition, but for some reason, this is the year I decided to reflect upon it.

Now, we know that anything that appears more than once in Torah is considered to be of significance. There’s no shortage of repetition, but it’s still a relatively small percentage of the entire text. Key ideas, mostly. Boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. Stuff like that.

There’s an example of a broad repetition right here in our parasha – as the saga of the design and building of the Mishkan that begins way back in parashat T’rumah continues through to Pekudei where it reaches it’s conclusion. First we get the instructions, then we read of the instructions being carried out, then the assembly – all one giant repetition. As with any repetition, there are a few small differences. (I mean after all, we couldn’t even keep the ten commandments the same!)

In the original mention of the bells and pomegranate motif, it specifically states “a golden bell” whereas here in Pekudei it only says “bell.” There’s no question that the bells are gold, for it says so in the previous verse. The version in Tetzaveh says in a whole subsequent verse that the robe was by Aharon when officiating

“so that the sound of it is heard when he comes into the sanctuary before the Lord and when he goes out – that he many not die.” (Ex 28:35)

whereas here in Pekudei, it mentions the robe is worn while officiating, but does not elaborate upon the reasons as it did in chapter 28.

If you go back and forth between chapters 28 and 39 you’ll find lots of small differences like these – with no apparent rhyme or reason, no consistent pattern that one could point to and say “aha!”

We can “spin” these differences in opposite ways, much the same as people are doing these days with news and facts.  We can say that the differences suggest the stories aren’t entirely true, because they don’t match. Or we can say that the fact they don’t match exactly makes it even more plausible that they’re true, because that’s just a natural human characteristic. The more paranoid cynics among us might suggest then that the differences were deliberate precisely to cause us to believe one or the other of those viewpoints! If you’re from the “this text is direct from, and the inerrant word of G”d” well then there are no differences and all is as it should be.  More on that in a bit.

Frankly, if the texts were identical, I’d be more suspicious of them. Then again, they didn’t have “copy and paste” back then.

I watch all these news stories come across my various feeds on social mediia, the web, news sites, radio and TV broadcasts, and more. Even time there’s a slightly different take on the story. I guess that’s as it should be, but it sure makes it harder to get at the actual truth, doesn’t it? So is the Torah teaching us that each time we retell a story, little changes creep in? That’s one possibility. Consider, for a moment, that your belief is that G”d wrote the Torah, exactly as it is (never mind the clear evidence of tedaction and scribal errors over the millennia.) Does this mean that even when G”d retells the same story G”d tells it slightly differently? (This fits in, of course, with my “b’tzelem anashim” concept in which if we are in the image, then all that we are and do, good and bad, are reflections of the Divine and therefore part of the Divine.

How far down the rabbit hole do we want to go with this? Already, my head is swimming with possibilities. I’d better stop now and save myself some time to contemplate this on Shabbat and in the future.

This musing is ending with a thought that I planned to repeat. Was it repeated verbatim or not? Does it matter? Will time tell?

Shabbat Shalom,

©2017 by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this Parasha:

Pekudei 5776 - Metamorphosis
Vayakhel 5776 - An Imaginary Community (Redux & Revised 5768)
Vayakhel-Pekudei-Shabbat Parah 5775 - New Heart, New spirit
Pekudei 5774 - Pronouns Revisited
Vayakhel 5774 - Is Two Too Much?
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5773 - Craftsman. Artisan. Artist. Again.
Vayakhel-Pekude 5772 - Vocational Ed
Pekude/Shabbat Sh'kalim 5771 - Ideas Worth Re-Examining
Vayakhel 5771 - Giving Up the Gold Standard
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5770-Corroborative Detail
Vayakhel-Pekudei 5769 - There Are Some Things You Just Have To Do Yourself
Vayakhel 5768-An Imaginary Community?
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5767-Redux 5760-The Lost Episodes: Too Much of a Good Thing
Vayakhel-Pekudei/Shabbat HaHodesh 5766 - So How Did Joseph Get Away With it?
Pekude 5765-Redux 5760-Pronouns
Vayakhel 5765-The Wisdom of the Heart
Vayakhel/Pekude 5764-Comma or Construct?
Vayakhel 5763-Dayam V'hoteir
Vayakhel/Pekude 5762-Sacred Work
Vayakhel/Pekude 5761 (Revised from 5758)-Craftsman. Artisan. Artist.
Vayakhel/Pekude 5758-Craftsman. Artisan. Artist.
Vayakhel 5760-The Lost Episodes: Too Much of a Good Thing

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