Crisis in a relationship can be the foundation of growth. The Hebrew word for crisis, mashber, also means ‘birthing stool’. The previous chapter taught us about how God’s relationship to us develops as a result of the sin of the golden calf. Chapter 35 offers the guidelines to realize the creative potential of crisis.
The recipe that the Torah offers is first, to define boundaries which will prevent a recurrence of the crisis, and second, to recognize the positive elements of the crisis, and to build on them.
While in God’s original presentation of the Mishkan to Moshe, He ends with Shabbat, Moshe reverses the order. The first order of business for the people who worshipped the calf is to accept that creativity has its boundaries, and that the fire of religious passion needs limits.
Once boundaries have been established, though, the way to move on is to recognize the real needs that the crisis expressed, to respond to them by identifying their positive core, and to allow that to be expressed constructively.
After discussing Shabbat, the chapter is dominated by a long list of the different items and materials needed to build the Mishkan, followed by a long description of how the people met this need. All the space devoted to these details translates into a wide variety of ways to contribute to building God’s house, and a wide open space in which everyone can find the contribution that is uniquely suited to them.
The sin of the golden calf is often presented as an attempt by people to define the service of God in our own image. The response that chapter 35 offers is not a categorical rejection of this idolatry. The Jewish people were demanding a more active role in their service of God, something which had previously been offered to them, and from which they had recoiled in fear. God’s house is built by embracing this desire, and offering the people the opportunity to express their own unique contribution within a highly defined structure. Gold for the calf is replaced with gold for God, and the passion which defined the crisis is matched and surpassed by the passion of new spiritual growth.
This blog is my own little daily insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation
What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il