Emotion Pictures

Hollywood endings normally happen in the Motion Pictures themselves rather than in the ceremonies that recognize them.  Last weekend’s all-too-human Academy Award presentation for Best Picture did more than rectify a mistake. The way one Film’s award recipients stepped aside for the actual awardees of another Film told a story of its own.  Winning does not require losing.

Making such a lesson vivid is particularly important in our day.  Far too often the ascension of one requires the demise of another. 

In this week’s portion of Torah something highly unusual takes place when God meticulously presents the dimensions of the Tabernacle. Moses is told to construct the structure “according to everything that I show you” (Ex. 25:9).  Given the precision of the dimensions described, why is a visual aid also necessary? Some say it is to sharpen the design.  Others link the structure shown to Moses to future prophetic visions of heavenly structures (Ezekial 40:2).  Perhaps the most essential reason why the Tabernacle is pictured for Moses is to make it clear that Torah is shifting from world of the invisible to the visible.  Showing Moses a vision intends to paint a picture for us as well. 

The structure’s primary purpose was to help us meet God.  But it’s secondary purpose was to help us meet each other.  A shared building project builds comradery among the builders.  This is why the Torah describes the fastening of poles as joining brother and sister beams together (Ex. 25:20, 26:3). One commentator suggest that the picture shown to Moses is not of what is to be constructed but of how it is to be assembled (Bechor Shor).

What Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls ‘side-by-side’ interactivity in his book The Home We Build Together feels like a more plausible mode these days for restoring connections than face-to-face encounters.  Many years ago when peace between Israel and Jordan was unimaginable, Lord Mishon invited Shimon Peres and King Hussein to a private dinner in his London apartment.  Polite conversation was shared throughout the meal.  Gratefully getting up to leave after desert, their host looked at them and said, “Where are you going? You haven’t done the dishes yet.”  “Are you serious?” came the surprised reply.  “Quite” said their host.  So they loosened their ties, rolled up their sleeves, and spent the next thirty minutes washing and drying the dishes.  As they would later recall, the bond between them during this shared, side-by-side task, grew much deeper than it had during the prior three hours of cordial conversation.

This week the legendary photojournalist David Rubinger, whose camera codified seven decades of Israel history, died this week at age 92.  The image of a blind child discovering Israel through touch reminds us that vision belongs not only to the sighted. 

May emotional picture association – whether stories are made vivid at the Oscars, at a London dinner, in the biblical wilderness, or in our own neighborhood – stir us to form deeper bonds with those around us.   

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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