The Tabernacle Is an Expression of the Biblical Commitment to Human Freedom

Feb. 27 2023

Beginning last Saturday and continuing for the next few weeks, synagogues will read the last twenty chapters of the book of Exodus, which are taken up primarily by a detailed account of the construction of the Tabernacle and its various accoutrements. In seeking to connect these passages with the first half of Exodus, which concerns the Israelites’ enslavement in Egypt and their miraculous redemption, Daniel Berkove calls attention to the parallels and contrasts between the Tabernacle and the ancient pharaonic public works in which the enslaved Jews were engaged. He notes first the similarity between the Hebrew word for the Tabernacle (mishkan, plural mishk’not) and the storage cites (arei misk’not) Pharaoh tasked the Israelites with building.

This curious linguistic connection gives us reason to consider how else the building of the Tabernacle and storage cities might relate to one another.

Ancient Egypt’s palaces, temples, and tombs were magnificent structures built to precise measurements, meant to last millennia, ornately decorated with gold, hieroglyphics, and brightly painted frescoes. . . . But the Tabernacle, which did include furnishings of gold and silver and required skilled workmanship, was essentially a large tent. Rather than permanent stone and brick, it was a modest structure primarily of wood, wool, and animal skins, and by design, easily portable.

Another difference between the Tabernacle and storage cities concerns the labor involved to build them. Pharaoh not only used slaves, but he worked them especially hard and intentionally made their burdens difficult. . . . Compare this to God’s instructions for building the Tabernacle. All of it was to be carried out voluntarily, from the provision of its materials to its construction. Moreover, in an astonishing juxtaposition, when God finished instructing Moses on how to build the Tabernacle, He then told Moses to command the Israelites to keep the Sabbath. The contrast between these two narratives could not be clearer.

Each story represents a different civilization. The civilization of Egypt, so dominant in those ancient times, was one built on material wealth, hierarchy, compulsion, and misery. It was a polytheistic society with deities of limited power that were ambivalent to humanity and required appeasement from their worshipers. . . . The Tabernacle represented an opposing civilization.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Ancient Egypt, Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Tabernacle


The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship