Terumah – Torah for Today

Original Broadcast Date: Feburary 21, 2015

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(Please note: The transcript is not identical with the broadcast. Grammar has been corrected to enhance readability.)

Beerman:

We will explore the Torah portion today which is entitled “Terumah,” Exodus 25 to 27. This portion deals with the construction, the building of the first sanctuary, the first tent that God instructs Israel to create. They are right in the wilderness. It is an interesting section, the detail and things that go into this, but first of all, we know that God says in Exodus 25, “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” So what should we understand about what this dwelling of God with man is all about? What is that dwelling about?

Bolotnikov:

This is a very important subject here because we are dealing with very unique wording here in the Book of Exodus. In fact, we are talking about mikdash, which comes from the word Kodesh which means…

Beerman:

Holiness.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, which means “to be holy.” That is where Kodesh comes in. It’s the adjective holy, so it’s a kind of interplay and then there is an interesting word. It is a verb. “Shakhan,” which literally means “to be neighbor.” Interestingly enough for those who repatriate to Israel, you get the first words.

It is interesting. I observed how Russians come to New York. The first words which Russians learn when they arrive as an immigrant in New York is the word garbage and the word train.

Beerman:

The basics.

Bolotnikov:

Train is the one in which you go to work, and garbage is the one which you get lots of interesting stuff.

Beerman:

They are free.

Bolotnikov:

Yes. Back in the early 2000s when I was in New York, people would just go to different garbage places and pick up some of the old furniture. People just put what they do not want any more in the garbage.

The first word Russian Jews learn when they arrive in Israel is different. It is the word sh’huna. Sh’huna means “neighborhood.” That is which neighborhood do you live in.

Beerman:

That is a warm connection, I mean most Christians may be familiar with the term Shekinah. The Shekinah glory that they knew was in the temple, but they do not really know what it means and so this is a very warm concept or idea—better than that word.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is the same you know Hebrew language is a flexible language. You can create many words from one root.

Beerman:

And associations…

Bolotnikov:

Yes, and the best way I have heard many presentation on the issue of Shekinah and the best English to translate it, is indwelling.

Beerman:

Yes, that is a common understanding…

Bolotnikov:

Yes, but I am not sure Stan, the idea of dwelling does not necessary implying neighboring, does it?

Beerman:

I think at least in our English culture here, our Caucasian culture in America, no it does not necessary have that connotation. So that is interesting, fascinating, and again warm in this context—that God is with His people.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it is interesting that God right at the beginning wants to become a neighbor with His people.

Beerman:

That nicely correlates with His law that we discussed in the segment last week. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” And some are those judgements that applied to how you deal with your neighbors. That is very beautiful. I’ve never seen that, never seen that at all.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, exactly. The interesting part of this is that when you look at the word, the verb shakan is basically, how the concept of sanctuary is being developed. Here we will see they have tent. So because the people live in tents in the desert, God lives in a tent.

Beerman:

Yes, total identification with His people here isn’t? He goes camping with His family.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, exactly. That is a good analogy here in the Northwest, people like camping. So God did camp.

Beerman:

In the desert, not in the mountains but in the desert.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, but what happened next. David built himself a house of stone on the edge of mount Zion and then he starts thinking. “What is happening now? I live in a house of stone and my God still lives in a tent, not fair! Let us built for Him a house in accordance with our new standard of living.”

Beerman:

Mankind gets things turned around a little bit do not they? Here God takes this action of trying to get into the middle of these people in the wilderness, and then when they get established, it’s easy to forget the God took this act of generosity, toward them initiating what He did not really have to do.

Bolotnikov:

For many years by the way, they had this sanctuary in Shiloh, which is right at the age of today’s Jerusalem. It was just a tent in spite of the fact that the people moved into the land, and they lived in houses. Only David got to understand that we need to change something about where our God dwells.

Beerman:

What are some of the purposes? We see God coming down to become a neighbor as you pointed it out, be close to his people but what else is he is trying to accomplish in creating this sanctuary out in the middle of nowhere, as his people travel through the wilderness. Is it just to be with them or are there some other purposes that he has not mind here?

Bolotnikov:

The number one purpose that is really going to be seen when we study Levitical Law is the purpose of creating a system of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly services that outline the plan of redemption from sin.

Beerman:

Okay, so is this an example in a sense, a type of the whole salvation process that we see in what Jesus did?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, absolutely. It is interesting that at the end of Chapter 25 in verse 40, it says that when God commands Moses to build everything, He says, “Look make it in accordance to the pattern which was shown to you.” So the pattern applies to the existing of an object, a real object.

Beerman:

That is somewhere else, heaven right?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, and it is interesting, in Judaism it is very clear that the temple in Jerusalem or Mishkan, the sanctuary was built in accordance to the pattern of the God’s dwelling in heaven.

Beerman:

Just some different dimensions, as Solomon’s temple is obviously as different, and the Herodian temple had different dimension than the dimensions given here for the little tent. So those exact dimensions weren’t wooden. They were instructions for any temple built. Is that correct?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, the idea here of the word “tabnith” is not an exactly copy. Tabnith is a pattern, outline, principle; and the principle is clear.

There are three major compartments in the sanctuary. There is an outer court where the altar is, and that is the only area accessible to the common people. The rest of the areas are accessible only to priests or Levites, and the most holy which is behind the curtain where the Ark of the Covenant is, is not accessible to anyone except the high priest at the Day of Atonement, “Yom HaKippurim.” And on the top of the ark, divine glory resides.

Beerman:

The Shekinah.

Bolotnikov:

The Shekinah, so it is interesting how the sanctuary, the Mishkan, combines in itself both irreconcilable ideas about God—His transcendence and His immanence.

Beerman:

Both that which would be ethereal and seemingly kind of distant, and those aspects of God which are closeness like we see in John 1.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, absolutely. “And the word became flesh.” It is interesting that the word shakan “to be neighbor” or “to neighbor.” Is there a word “to neighbor”?

Beerman:

No.

Bolotnikov:

There is none, but you get the concept. It is very hard to find in many European languages, and that is why when they basically had Greek, they wanted to express these ideas in Greek. They could not find a good appropriate word. They just spelled it out “ske-noh.” That is how they heard it because the Greek language does not have the leather “shin” or any way to represent this sound.

Beerman:

Right.

Bolotnikov:

That is why it’s skene, but it is the same shakan. So that is why the sanctuary in Greek is called “Skene.” It is just sounding out a Hebrew word in Greek, and basically the idea is God is a neighbor, so God is immanent; God is right there. But on the other hand, you cannot just walk up to Him and just sit like buddy, buddy. That is an important, interesting combination, unlike Greek thinking where it is “either/or” (God is either immanent or transcendent).

In Pagan religions, that is how it was. In primitive Paganism which sometimes we see here and in different cults, God is very close. Here is the statue, and here you are, and people kind of approach having all kinds of superstitious beliefs about it. And then Greek philosophers came like Plato, bringing this idea of John 1:1 talking about “logos.” The Greek concept of logos is about a transcendent God, so Plato turned everything around. He kind of introduced a new concept. These Olympic gods like Zeus and Aphrodite and Apollo, all of them had human characteristics

Beerman:

Human characteristics, yes.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, the anthropomorphic, the human characteristic gods, the immanent ones. They kind of get scrapped, and now everybody is into this transcendent logos who is so far away, nobody can reach him that sort of a thing, and in Hebrew, it is both.

Beerman:

Yes, that is interesting because in the Book of John the logos becomes flash, to be near so it is kind of that combination.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, in the book of John, of course John is not using any photonic philosophy.

Beerman:

Right.

Bolotnikov:

In the Book of John, the logos is not the platonic god logos. Logos is based on what it is written, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Everything came by him and nothing that came into being came into being without him.” This type of statement, seen in the second verse, is a rabbinic concept of creation. According to the rabbinic concept of creation, God had an architect who designed the blue print of the world which He created. That architect was the Torah, so in this case logos is definitely the way how John translates the Hebrew concept of Torah into the Greek language. So Jesus here in John 1:13, 14 is a living Torah. It is a Torah that became flesh, and that is how God dwells among people. He becomes accessible.

Beerman:

That is just a beautiful concept. It really is, and seeing how it is born out there in the New Testament. So we are essentially saying this temple, this tent, is a type of a heavenly. How literal is that type? How should we understand it now today? There was a temple then? Do we need a temple now? If there is a temple in heaven, how do we relate to that? Does the New Testament speak to this?

Bolotnikov:

Oh, absolutely. First of all, the Epistle to the Hebrews definitely speaks about Jesus being a high priest at the heaven sanctuary. Second of all, we have the apocalypse of John, The Book of Revelation. And it is interesting how John has visions of heaven.

There are two extremes which we can see in the Christian thinking. One extreme is people began to think that everything in heaven was exactly as it is on earth, which unfortunately immediately is refuted by questions such as, “Did they have?” It says here, in this chapter which we study of the Torah that they have to build a roof made out of ram skin, so are there rams in heaven which were killed, so how literal is literal?

But then, the other talks about this being completely metaphoric, so there is nothing up in heaven. Well the Book of Revelation disagrees with both sides. The Book of Revelation shows us the heavenly temple. Chapter one begins with Jesus walking by the menorah. Then we see the Golden altar of incense.

Beerman:

Chapter 8, I believe.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, chapter 8 several times. Then we see the veil is opening. We see the Ark of the Covenant.

Beerman:

Chapter 11.

Bolotnikov:

Chapter 11 and Chapter 15.

Beerman:

Yes, again.

Bolotnikov:

So, we can see the elements of the temple structure in heaven, and we definitely see that the temple, based on chapters 4 and 5, the heavenly temple is the place from where God executes His judgments.

Beerman:

And you are suggesting an essence of the Book of Revelation is really built in its progression on a basic floor plan of the sanctuary.

Bolotnikov:

This is why people do not understand this book, because in order to understand it, you must understand the structure of the temple. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, John the revelator, clearly states over and over, “I saw. I saw. I saw.” So if the heavenly temple is a metaphor, then we can just say that John is a liar. I cannot accept this. So, we have to take somewhere in a middle.

Beerman:

That is right, both the metaphorical and well as what we have here originally.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, we have to be in the middle. We have to understand that there is definitely a specific dwelling place of God in heaven based on which the earthy sanctuary, and then the later temple was modeled, but it is a model not a copy.

Let me give you a simple example. Think about the atom. Strasizar, in the beginning of the 20th century, created a planetary model of an atom. In this planetary model, you see a nucleus in middle and then electrons turning around like a solar system. Well that is a correct model. It is working. That is why we have all kinds of nuclear reactors and things like that, because the model works. But the problem is, we now have electron microscopes with such higher resolutions that we can see pictures of atoms. We realize that atoms do not exactly look like a solar system, but the mathematical model works. I do not know if this analogy is…

Beerman:

Oh, yes it is a good analogy. It is an understandable analogy, and we do not have to apply every little detail…

Bolotnikov:

Yes, exactly. That is exactly the point.

Beerman:

To the antitype as opposed to the type in these passages. Some fascinating things with in this section, and the one that always fascinates me is these cherubim that are positioned on each end of the Ark. What is their role, function? What are they doing there? Generally Christians think of those I guess as angels, angel figures, but what really are they and what are they about?

Bolotnikov:

That is very interesting. We do see cherubim actually in a Book of Ezekiel, and first of all we see a divine throne which is moved by cherubim—four cherubim. Of course, what you are referring to is inside the most the holy. The Ark of the Covenant, basically the core of the sanctuary, has two cherubim, and several times we have the expression (like King Hezekiah in the Book of Isaiah praying), “Oh, Lord God who sits upon the cherubim.” So there are two cherubim.

It is interesting that in the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet talks about the fallen anointed cherubim which covers. The covering cherubim, their covering because their wings stretch in such a ways that they create a shade that covers the Ark.

Beerman:

The throne room of God in essence, the throne room itself.

Bolotnikov:

So, these actually give us a window into the understanding of a figure like Satan.

Beerman:

That is interesting. That was a position that apparently Lucifer held was being one of those covering Cherubs. Just quick. In general we think of a cherub in our culture as a little naked child. What is the difference? What might they look like?

Bolotnikov:

Well, it is very difficult to really tell how they look. Definitely, they do have wings, and we have that description, but besides wings, in the Book of Ezekiel when Ezekiel sees the appearance of the heavenly glory, he does not have enough adequate words to describe. The cherubim in the Book of Ezekiel described as four faced, the face of lion.

Beerman:

And they show up in the book of Revelation do not they too?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it is the same way, and fairly consistent. But can you imagine, somebody’s head with four faces—lion, eagle, ox and human. That is very, very unusual.

Beerman:

Very unusual and probably symbolic in imaginary to some degree or another for sure.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, some of the things, I prefer to keep silent you know. Whatever is revealed is revealed, and whatever is hidden belongs to God.

Beerman:

Thank you for sharing these insights today about the sanctuary. These are most helpful, and I know many will be blessed by this.