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Home » Terumah

Terumah: Vertical Logs

Submitted by on February 2, 2019 – 10:04 pm2 Comments | 812 views

Vertical logs are rare in construction. Most log cabins are built with horizontal logs. It is possible to build with vertical logs and there are several advantages to it, for example, vertical logs don’t settle as much as horizontal logs, but there are many disadvantages to building with vertical logs. For example, you need to fight against gravity, and water damage can be a problem too.

This raises a question. Why did G-d instruct Moses to build the tabernacle with vertical logs? Although it is a legitimate way to build, it isn’t the norm. How many cabins have you seen built with vertical logs?

Life Messages

As we know, every aspect of the tabernacle’s construction was instructive. Efficiency wasn’t G-d’s primacy concern when He chose the method of building. His construction methods conveyed lessons that give meaning and purpose to life.

For example, the candelabra was hammered out of a single piece of gold though it would have been much simpler to weld separate arms to a stand-alone stem. Yet, G-d wasn’t looking to make it easy. G-d was looking to make it meaningful. By making a candelabra out of a single piece, He taught us that unity generates light. Without unity, we stumble in the dark.

Similarly, G-d instructed that the Holy Ark be fashioned out of three boxes. The inner and outer boxes were golden, and the middle box was wooden. Each box had to be measured precisely so that one would fit into the other with no room to spare. It would have been much easier to fashion a wooden box and plate it with gold. But then the surface and interior would have been tied to and dependant on each other. G-d wanted us to know that surface behavior and inner incentives are independent of each other.

Sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong reason and sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reason. Although we must always strive for proper behavior and proper motivation, life is not a sum zero game. Our efforts aren’t a complete waste if one aspect went wrong. If we did the right thing for the wrong reason, our surface behavior is independently golden. If we do the wrong thing for the right reasons, our motivations are independently golden. We must correct what isn’t golden, but that doesn’t cancel out the part that is. We can build on what we got right even as we correct what we got wrong.

These are just two examples of the many life lessons that we derive from the tabernacle’s construction. Thus, when we see that the tabernacle was built with vertical logs, we must ask ourselves what lesson we can learn from vertical logs.

Vertical Logs

Waking people are vertical, sleeping people are horizontal. In symbolic terms, vertical people are alert to their shortcomings and strive to improve them, horizontal people are oblivious to their shortcomings and think they are perfect. In dreams, opposites occur with such regularity that they don’t draw attention. When we are horizontal—symbolically asleep, we can be in a dream-like state. We can be horribly dishonest, immoral, or insensitive, and believe that we are perfectly normal. It makes no sense to think this way, but in a dream anything is possible.

The tabernacle was the world’s epicenter of holiness and those who wanted to approach, first encountered a wall of vertical logs. If we want to approach a holy state of mind, the first thing we must encounter is our vertical log. We must take an honest and probing look at ourselves and be upfront about our failings. If we remain horizontal, if we are dishonest with ourselves, we will never draw close to holiness. We must be honest and correct what requires correction.

Once we acknowledge our faults, the next step is to climb the vertical log. Lateral movement is symbolic of making excuses. Vertical movement is symbolic of improvement. In life, only vertical movement is constructive. Lateral movement is a waste of time (unless our goal is to shirk our duties in which case lateral movement is the perfect strategy). If we are honest about growing, we must climb the vertical log.

By that we mean, start the difficult process of inner change. Acknowledging our faults is the first step. But if we make excuses for them, if we blame them on our parents, teachers, friends, or environment, we won’t draw any closer to the tabernacle; we will not be any holier for it. The key is to take responsibility for our behavior and our demeanor, and then take steps to correct them.

Pair down the ego, cut back on greed, get rid of self-absorption, shore up insecurities, wean off addictions, heal from obsessions and wash away the layers of emotional grime that obscure clarity, clog up vision, and prevent us from seeing the truth. Instead, we must fill our lives with constructive values. Find new friends, take on new hobbies, seek out volunteer opportunities, make time every day for prayer, sign up for Torah classes, and seek out mentors who can guide us. In other words, climb the vertical log.

Ceiling to Floor

Once this is achieved, we become candidates for the final benefit of vertical logs. As difficult as it is to bind vertical logs and attach them to the ceiling and floor, once they are constructed, each log forms a beam that runs from ceiling all the way down to the floor.

The ceiling represents the highest rung of existence, the domain of G-d Himself. The flood represents the lowest level of existence; our shallowest tendencies and temptations. The vertical log links ceiling to floor. Not only does it offer a path from floor to ceiling by giving us an opening to do the heavy lifting, it also serves as a channel through which G-d reaches down from the ceiling to lift us up off the floor.

In other words, if we embark on the difficult climb of self-examination and-self improvement, we can be sure that G-d will reach down from above and lend a helping hand.

Unraveling the Knot

The Hebrew letters, kuf, reish, and shin are an anagram that form three words. Keresh, which means beam, kesher which means knot, and sheker, which means lie. The message of the Keresh, the vertical beam of the tabernacle, is that by climbing from floor to ceiling, we can unravel the knot, the kesher, and undo the lie, the sheker, with which we live every day.

We tie ourselves to the lie that we are incapable of change, that we are products of our nature, and that we are doomed to die with the failures of our present. This is a lie that ties us down and prevents us from achieving vertical lift. The message of the vertical log is that we can do better. We have a beam that we can climb, a path that we can follow that (a) undoes the lie (b) unties us the knot and (c) gives us a path to the ceiling.

And when we do, G-d reaches down from the ceiling and lifts us up—gives us the strength to move forward. When we pray to G-d, He responds. When we study His Torah, He opens our minds. When we look after His children, He looks after ours. We are not alone in the gutter. The vertical beam connects us to the very top. To the apex of all existence and the pinnacle of all achievement.[1]

It isn’t easy, but as we said. G-d wasn’t looking to make it easy. G-d was looking to make it meaningful.

[1] Basie Leganie 5710, chapters 9-10.

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