Found in Translation (Vayakel-Pekudei)
God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice. — John Donne
This week’s Torah reading of Vayakel-Pekudei deals with the construction of the Tabernacle, what is called the Mishkan in the Torah. The Bat Ayin on Exodus 38:21 is surprised by the use of the word “Mishkan,” for he explains that it’s not etymologically a Hebrew word, but rather a translation. Part of his surprise is that the Torah is almost exclusively written in Hebrew with just a handful of non-Hebrew words included. Furthermore, Hebrew is the language of creation, for God used the Hebrew language to create the universe, our world and everything in it. It would seem ironic that the first creative effort of the Jewish people should be named with a translated word.
The Bat Ayin explains that the Hebrew word for “universe” or “world” has the same root as the word “hidden,” for God’s role in the creation and sustenance of our world is in fact hidden. It is easy to not see or to deny God’s hand in our existence. One of our missions in this world is to discover the hiddenness of God. To find God in the physical and mundane. To find God in the translation of the eternal and spiritual to the temporal and material. All of our world is, in essence, a translation of metaphysical concepts to our tangible reality. Therefore, the Bat Ayin concludes that it is particularly appropriate that the Mishkan is a translated word, for it hints at the role it plays and our mission to uncover and decipher God in our everyday lives.
By revealing that God is behind the scenes, by sharing that there is an active, benevolent, all-powerful Creator that was, is and will be the force that encapsulates all of reality, we bring light into the darkness of an otherwise random and meaningless existence. We promote the divine characteristics of lovingkindness, charity, truth, and all of God’s attributes. We translate the sacred and transcendent to human terms.
May we always be involved in the translation and transmission of good and noble efforts.
To our son, Yehuda, on his enlisting in the IDF’s Kfir infantry division next week.