The Tabernacle as a Biblical Lesson in Artistic Creativity

March 7 2018

The final chapters of the book of Exodus are largely concerned with the construction of the tabernacle—the portable precursor to the First Temple—used by the Israelites in the wilderness. After examining how these passages were understood by Christian theologians in Reformation-era England, Ranana Dine examines what can be gleaned from uniquely rabbinic readings:

For the [talmudic] rabbis, the tabernacle reflects God’s own creation of the world and other aspects of divinity—the command to the Israelites to construct the building is [a way in which He allows] people [to serve] as partners in divine creation. . . .

[The 20th-century exegete] Nechama Leibowitz, drawing on [these] earlier commentators, has drawn parallels between the Bible’s description of the tabernacle’s construction and the first creation narrative in Genesis. In particular, many of the verbs, such as “saw,” “blessed,” and “completed” occur in both texts, giving the impression that the construction of the tabernacle requires the same actions as God’s creation of the world. . . .

[In light of such interpretations], it is possible to read these passages . . . as suggesting that artistic creation—designing, construction, crafting—can be part of divine work, part of godly creation, and perhaps even require a bit of the divine spirit. By weaving or chiseling we too can participate in a type of creation, although we lack the [explicit] divine command today to build a dwelling place for God. . . . [Thus, in] Jewish theology, the beauty of the tabernacle and the Temple is godly in its essence, containing the traces of the human-divine partnership in ongoing creation.

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More about: Art, Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Tabernacle

Zionists Can, and Do, Criticize Israel. Are Anti-Zionists Capable of Criticizing Anti-Semitism?

Dec. 12 2018

Last week, the New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg defended the newly elected anti-Israel congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, ostensibly arguing that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism aren’t identical. Abe Greenwald comments:

Tlaib . . . has tweeted and retweeted her enthusiasm for terrorists such as Rasmea Odeh, who murdered two American students in a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969. If Tlaib’s anti-Zionism is of the Jew-loving kind, she has a funny way of showing it.

Ilhan Omar, for her part, once tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” And wouldn’t you know it, just because she believes that Zionist hypnotists have cast global spells masking Israeli evil, some people think she’s anti-Semitic! Go figure! . . .

Goldberg spends the bulk of her column trying very hard to uncouple American Jewishness from Israel. To do that, she enumerates Israel’s sins, as she sees them. . . . [But] her basic premise is at odds with reality. Zionists aren’t afraid of finding fault with Israel and don’t need to embrace anti-Zionism in order to [do so]. A poll conducted in October by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that a majority of Americans Jews have no problem both supporting Israel and criticizing it. And unlike Goldberg, they have no problem criticizing anti-Semitism, either.

Goldberg gives the game away entirely when she discusses the discomfort that liberal American Jews have felt in “defending multi-ethnic pluralism here, where they’re in the minority, while treating it as unspeakable in Israel, where Jews are the majority.” She adds: “American white nationalists, some of whom liken their project to Zionism, love to poke at this contradiction.” Read that again. She thinks the white nationalists have a point. Because, really, what anti-Semite doesn’t?

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, New York Times