The Straight and Narrow: Vayakhel-Pekudei 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you prefer to arrange the things you own in a symmetrical way? Or are you more comfortable with things scattered about?

As the Israelites finally build the Mishkan (portable sanctuary), we find numerous examples of spatial equilibrium:

The Pitch: “Fifteen cubits of hangings on the other flank — on each side of the gate of the enclosure — with their three posts and their three sockets.” – Exodus 38:15

Swing #1: “The idea is that the two sides mirrored each other.” – Duane A. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus

Swing #2: “Just as there [with regard to the Tabernacle, an entrance] five [cubits high] by twenty [cubits] wide [is considered a doorway], so too here, [with regard to the laws of Eruv, an entrance] five [cubits high] by twenty [cubits] wide [should be considered a doorway].” – BT Eruvin 2b

Swing #3: “‘On this side and on that side.’ These words apply to the previous two verses, each set of hanging curtains being on either side of the entrance gate to the courtyard.” – Chizkuni

Late-Inning Questions: Why do you think the design of the Mishkan is so symmetrical? Is God trying to make things as straightforward as possible for the Israelite builders? Or might God simply prefer a simple design for God’s own house? What are the advantages to keeping things simple?

On-Deck at TBT: We’re offering both Seders on Zoom this year. The first, on Saturday, March 27th, at 8:30 p.m., will be a Temple Beth Tzedek-run Seder; you can register for it here. The second, on Sunday, March 28th, at 6:30 p.m., will be run by TBT, Temple Beth Zion, and Congregation Shir Shalom; you can register for it here.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of simple designs, many baseball fans (myself included) prefer ballparks with asymmetrical outfields and fences of different heights, since this adds character to the structure and intrigue to the game. But I also wonder whether it’s strange to literally have an unlevel playing field. Could you imagine this in football, basketball, or hockey?

Shabbat Shalom!