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Smoke and FireThe temperature in the Temple was smoking hot. One can only imagine that the summer months in Jerusalem were hot enough as it was. Add to that the myriads of people that filled the temple on a given day, and the many fires atop the altar, and you …

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Home » Education, Vayakhel

Vayakhel Pekudei: To Carry Forward

Submitted by on March 19, 2017 – 1:40 amNo Comment | 397 views

To Raise a Child

If we look back on our upbringing, we will note that we are an amalgam of a huge family. We carry traits from our mothers, fathers, and grandparents. Some of our values were taught by our mothers, some by our fathers, and some by our grandparents. Some of our good and bad habits were modeled for us by our parents, some by our grandparents. We are a virtual walking family.

Families operate as a funnel; wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Sixty-four great-great-great-great-grandparents produced and raised thirty-four great-great-great-grandparents, who produced and raised sixteen great-great-grandparents, who produced and raised eight great grandparents, who produced and raised four grandparents, who produced and raised two parents, who in turn gave birth to and raised me.

If you take it back twenty generations, (a mere five-hundred years), you will realize that it took a million people to produce one. They all labored to carry, issue, raise and support children, who would raise children, who would raise children, whom they would never meet. They hovered over these children, imparted teachings, principles, and values to ensure that these would be transmitted forward to the next generation, all to benefit me.

Conclusion: The collective effort invested into producing little old me is nothing short of awesome.

Rings and Rods

This might help us explain a curious phenomenon in the Torah. I have often wondered why it was necessary to place rods on the sacred vessels in the Temple. I understand why these rods were necessary while our ancestors traveled through the desert. They moved from place to place and each time they relocated, the tabernacle was disassembled and carried to a new location. Having the rods affixed and at the ready, ensured easy transportation when the time came to relocate.

Yet, the Torah required that the rods never be removed from the vessels. Even when our ancestors settled permanently in Jerusalem, the rods could not be removed. In fact, this is one of the six-hundred-and-thirteen-commandments. Never remove the rods. Why are rods necessary on stationary vessels?

Never Settle

Some have argued that a Jew should never grow comfortable in any one place. Not because we, the wandering nation, are always subject to the possibility of exile. In the days of the Temple, we were not a wandering nation. We were a powerful people on a settled land with no fear of displacement. The real concern is that we never grow rooted in or overly connected with the material location of our residence.

A Jew’s true home is in heaven. We are only in this world temporarily. Our souls came from heaven and will one day return to heaven. This is merely a sojourn for a short while.

The story is told of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch, who hosted a wealthy man in his impoverished home. The man wondered how the rabbi could live on such meager rations and in such a small home. The rabbi replied that he had more than his guest. His guest didn’t even have a bed and had to be hosted by a fellow Jew. To which the guest replied, that he too had a home. It was just on the road that he didn’t have his own lodgings. The rabbi then explained that he considered life in this world, a mere journey. Here, he said, I am on the road. My real home is in heaven, where a true palace awaits me.

Similarly, the sacred vessels held rods to remind one and all that life in this world is transient. The main goal, the true destination of a Jew, is in heaven. That is one explanation.

People of Tradition

I want to offer another explanation along the lines of our earlier discussion. The rods were not merely for transportation, they also carried a message. The sacred vessel represented the splendour and grandeur of our Torah. Our principles of faith, our teachings, our ideas, our relationship with G-d and our emotional bond, are all expressed through the sacred vessels in the Temple.

These messages are meant to move us, to carry us forward; from where we are to where we ought to be. However, we can’t be carried by our own inspiration. It isn’t enough to open a book, study the law, explore the meaning and find inspiration to carry us from earth to heaven, from where we are to where we ought to be. If we want to live a heavenly life while we are here on earth, we need rings and rods.

There were four rings on the four corners of the vessels and two rods, inserted into the rings, one on each side. The two rods represented our mother and father. The four corners represented our grandparents. The rings take us back through the generations to our great grandparents and beyond. All the way to the million ancestors that contributed to our being.

Judaism has been around for nearly three and a half millennia. That translates into nearly six and a half million ancestors, all who have toiled to transmit knowledge that was funneled to me. Without their contribution, I would not be here today. If I want to move forward with the information contained in the Holy Ark, I need to be cognizant of how it was taught by my forbearers.

We are known as the people of the book, but we are much more than that. We are really the people of tradition. We can’t reinvent the wheel in each generation by reading the book anew. We are taught how to read it by our forbearers and we carry it forward from generation to generation. Each generation builds on what they were taught, on what was transmitted to them. These teachings and traditions are the rings and rods that carry us forward. That enable us to get ahead.

This is why the rings and rods must always remain affixed to the sacred vessels. They were not only a means of conveyance, they also conveyed a message. Live by the teachings contained in these vessels, but learn them as taught by your predecessors. Don’t deviate from what you were taught, just build upon it and you will move forward.

To the Future

If the generations leading down toward me is like a funnel, the generations leading away from me is like a pyramid with myself on the top. I am just one, but if I have at least two children, and they each have two, it will take only twenty generations for me to produce a million descendants. As we toil to raise our children, let us remember that we are not alone. Millions of people have given us what we will give our children, and what we give them will be transmitted to millions more.

We are links in a glorious chain that spans the course of history. Our people has lived and taught for thousands of years. We have taught the world the enlightened values by which it lives. We have given the world courage and faith, principles and values, family and education, life and love, sacrifice and commitment. We carry the teachings of history on our shoulders and we carry them forth for eternity.

But we each carry our own load. The teachings of our ancestors can only carry us forward if we choose to take the steps. Rods are only good as a means of conveyance if someone lifts them and walks forward. That is our role. Each in our own lives. Each in our own way. We lift the teachings and traditions of millions of ancestors and carry it to millions of descendants.

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