We’re in the middle of several Torah readings that discuss the details of things which, at first glance to many people, appear to be disconnected from our contemporary lives.
We may ask, “What is the relevance of the detailed description of the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle?
“Why do we need to know about the intricate design of its vessels, or about how the clothing was fashioned for the Kohen – the priest – and the Kohen Gadol – the High Priest?
One example is the vessel that is mentioned both in last week’s parsha, and in this week’s parsha – the altar.
The מִזְבֵּחַ הַנְּחוֹשֶׁת – the Bronze Altar – measured 13 feet or nearly 4 meters high, and we learn from it a message relevant for everyone, especially in these challenging times.
The Kohen clearly needed to ascend to the top somehow, in order to prepare the offering and the libations on the site.
But how was he to get there?
“וְלֹא תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלות עַל מִזְבְּחִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ עָלָיו”
“Do not ascend My altar by steps, that your nakedness may not be exposed upon it.” (Exodus 20:26)
The Torah specifically forbids the Kohen from using steps. Instead, he must ascend using a ramp.
What is the difference between a ramp and steps?
And how does a ramp solve the problem raised in the verse about exposing his nakedness?
Why is one mandated and one prohibited?
In using steps one has three choices: to go up, to go down or to stay in the same place.
Yet when using a ramp, one has only two options: either go up or go down.
On a ramp, there is no plateau on which to remain comfortably in place.
On the contrary, if you try to stand in place on a ramp, momentum leads you to slide backward.
The Altar, which symbolizes our commitment to sacrifice for our relationship with God, reminds us that in all relationships in our lives, we are either going up or going down.
There is no such thing as plateau-ing in our closest relationships, whether with God, our spouse, our children, or any other relationship, we are either in a state of growth or decline.
If we really wish to treat our most important relationships with the attention they deserve to ensure that they are always in a state of growth and vitality – we must ascend the ramp!
Continuously working on our relationships, investing our most precious resources, time and emotions in them. This is the timeless message that the Torah shares with us through depicting the construction of this one vessel. Messages can be found in the analysis of all the Temple structures
May we find the strength to be engaged in the ongoing process of growth and ascension in our closest relationships, both with God and with others in our family, community and society.