There is something hidden in the Tabernacle.
Every so often, roaming through the world of parshanut, we come across a piece of commentary so startling, so profound, and so complex, that it demands our full attention for the week. This is such a week, and the piece in question is from one of the great works of Torah commentary of the 20th-century, the Meshech Chochmah, by Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, Latvia.
I have written before about the rabbinic tradition of seeking thematic links between an upcoming holiday and the parsha that regularly precedes it. When the holiday in question also has its own special reading, then all the more so, the commentators assiduously comb the two texts, looking for connections.
Deep in the heart of God’s sanctuary, there in the Holy of Holies, stood two golden idols.
Wandering through a dense forest of laws, we come upon a witch.
History is a funny thing. We tend to think of it as a record of past events. But it isn’t that, exactly (though it may attempt to be). History is, instead, more like the way we talk about the past. It is our attempt to recollect and reconstruct what happened, and to put it into words. And sometimes, we get it wrong.
This week, a new nation is being formed.
If the Ten Commandments, delivered at Mount Sinai, serve as a kind of Constitution for the people of Israel, then Parshat Bo contains its Declaration of Independence, in the opening words of Chapter 12: “This month will mark for you the beginning…” A new calendar, a new set of rules, and a new holiday to commemorate the birth of this new nation.
So this is a good moment to ask the question: who’s in, and who’s out? What constitutes membership in the nation of Israel, and who will be counted as a citizen in this new polity?