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Parshiyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5775 — 03/11/2015

Parshiyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5775 — 03/11/2015

Ramban points out that the structure of the Mishkan / Tabernacle mirrors the structure of creation.  He doesn’t go into great detail on this point, as it is unlikely that most of us would be able to understand the details.  We are talking about the most subtle structures of creation that the Mishkan does not merely symbolize, but is actually a material representation of these structures.

Rav Kook looks at some of these structures:

Two woven coverings stretched out across the roof of the Mishkan … The inner covering was a replendent work of fine linen and colorful wool, dyed indigo, purple, and crimson.  The outer covering was a simpler affair, made solely of goat wool.  One might think that the magnificent inner covering was the greater of the two.  The Talmud, however, notes that weaving the outer wool covering required greater wisdom. …

Rav Kook explained that these two Tabernacle coverings relate to two spheres of wisdom in the world, the basis of Divine influence and holiness.  The first level of wisdom is abstract and general, while the second is practical and detailed. …

But in truth, the practical wisdom of how to apply abstract principles in everyday life is profound and rare.  Spiritual abstractions may be revealed through prophecy and Divine inspiration.  But the practical Torah of mitzvot could only be revealed through the unique clarity of Moses’ prophetic vision. (Sapphire from the Land of Israel)

In another passage (in the same volume), Rav Kook discusses the tzitz, the High Priest’s headplate, which was a plate of gold, with Kodesh LaHashem (Holy to Gd) written on it.  It was held on the head by means of a blue string that went over his turban.  He writes:

The Talmud teaches that the tzitz enclircled the kohen’s forehead “from one ear to the other” (Shabbat 63b)….

The ear is an organ which we use to hear and listen.  One aspect of listening, represented by one ear, is directed above – receptive to the inner voice of elevated thought. …

The second aspect of listening, our awareness of the physical world below, is represented by the second  ear.  This connection allows the world to acquire a new inner content, while providing practical knowledge which could not be attained in the spiritual realm.  Here the spiritual is enriched through insight into the material world, its actions and emotions.

In both these instances, Rav Kook describes the existence of an “upper world” and a “lower world.”  The purpose of the particular structure he is describing is to unite these two worlds in some way.  These two worlds are described respectively as “spiritual” or “abstract” as opposed to “practical” and “concrete.”  In contrast to the designation “upper” and “lower,” Rav Kook appears to be saying that the “lower” world, the more expressed area, in fact requires a “higher wisdom” and gives “practical knowledge” that is not available in the “higher” world.  How are we to understand this apparent reversal?

The truth is, this is a very perplexing idea and I can only guess at an understanding.  We have often discussed that Creation has a layered structure, with Gd in the “center” as it were, and radiating energy and intelligence “outward” to the finest level of expression, through progressively more concrete levels of expression, to the most concrete, material world which we inhabit.  Certainly the more abstract layers are “closer” to Gd – that is why they are called the “upper” worlds!  Yet there is something in the cold, pristine beauty of these abstract layers that is missing – they are realms that only a philosopher or mathematician can love, so to speak.  The more concrete layers teem with diversity, with multiple parts integrated into level after level of structure and wholeness.

An example from physics might help.  Physics describes material creation in terms of multiple layers.  At the center are abstract fields, or, hopefully, one completely abstract, unified field.  This field vibrates in different modes, and these modes are what our experiments detect as the elementary particles – electrons, quarks, gluons, photons, etc.  At a more expressed level these particles combine to form atoms, and at a more expressed level the atoms combine to form molecules, etc.

At the most abstract layer we have one, single unified field.  At the elementary particle layer we have perhaps a couple of dozen particles.  But there are 92 naturally occurring atoms, and about 20 more man-made ones.  But there are millions of different molecules, and they combine to produce a virtually unlimited number of fibers and tissues, rocks and plants and animals and people.  There is a diversity on the concrete level that is simply unavailable on the abstract levels, except in potential form.  And this diversity is constantly evolving new forms and functions, new structures to delight the eye and fascinate the mind.

Perhaps it is in this sense that Rav Kook refers to these more concrete levels as having a “higher wisdom.”  It is one thing to create abstractions.  It is quite another to create abstractions that have the potential to mix and match and ramify into a whole world of forms and phenomena, diverse and yet integrated.  Yet this is exactly what Gd did.  He created the seed and let the seed sprout into a glorious tree.  To understand the seed in its abstraction is a great accomplishment.  To understand the full value of the tree, from its seed to its full glory is an even greater accomplishment.  And it is for this latter accomplishment that we were put on earth.