Tag Archives: exile

Tetzaveh: Temple Visions and Garments

Priestly Garments by Laya Crust

This week’s Parashah, Tetzaveh, describes the High Priest’s ceremonial robes. Details of the weavings, the breastplate, the gold bells, and tiny pomegranates fill the imagination with colour and texture.

In the previous Torah reading, Terumah, God outlined all the materials to be donated and collected to build the Mishkan. The Mishkan, a portable place of worship, would be crafted with exquisite textiles, gold, silver, and brass instruments. This week’s haftarah from the Book of Ezekiel also describes a place of prayer.

The prophet Ezekiel, the son of a Cohen, was among the 8,000 Jews to be exiled to Babylon in 597 BCE. He wrote the words of this haftarah while in exile. Ezekiel says that God carries him to the land of Israel and places him on top of a very high mountain where he sees something like the structure of a city. A man, seemingly made of brass, gives Ezekiel a tour of the future Temple.

Titzaveh
Temple Floor Plan by Laya Crust

We read detailed descriptions of each element to be measured and positioned. The illustration above is based on a rendering of Solomon’s Temple from an illumination in an early 12th C. German manuscript. It shows the Temple’s floor plan. All the sacred objects in the floor plan seem to lie on the floor. I used the manuscript drawing because it is so unusual and delightful. It is a charming way for the viewer to see the Temple artifacts. The manuscript is currently in Vienna, Austria in the National Library.

The Jews were miserable. It was the 25th year of their exile in Babylon. God gave Ezekiel an incredible amount of information about the next Temple to share with the Jews. Hearing about the future Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews were optimistic that they would indeed return to their homes. A provision accompanied the details and plans. The Temple would only be restored if the Jews were repentant and corrected their behaviours and observances.

We will fast-forward almost 2,550 years. Under Jordanian rule, Jews were forbidden to pray at the Western Wall from 1948 until 1967. When Israeli forces liberated Jerusalem in 1967, Jews were once again free to go to the Kotel, the only remaining wall of the Second Temple. We don’t have a Third Temple, but we have a unified Jerusalem, and we can pray at the Kotel. This remnant of the Temple should be a place of acceptance and harmony, and it should be a place where all Jews can speak to God in their own way.

As always, let’s pray for peace and harmony.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Reunited- VaYigash

The brothers selling Joseph to passing traders from the parasha VaYigash

For the last number of weeks we have been reading about our ancestors, Jacob’s children. More specifically, we have read about Joseph’s trajectory from favoured son at home, to being a slave, and then to becoming viceroy of all Egypt. By the time he was thirty years old Joseph ruled Egypt. He ran the finances and oversaw all of Egypt’s policies.

In this week’s Torah reading Joseph’s brothers still did not know that the leader they were speaking to was their brother. This parsha begins just after Benjamin had been “framed”. Joseph’s personal silver chalice had been “planted” in Benjamin’s belongings, and the Israelite brothers had been told that Benjamin would become enslaved to Pharaoh’s court as payment for the infraction. Joseph was playing a game with his brothers.

English: Joseph Converses With Judah, His Brot...Joseph Converses With Judah, His Brother, c. 1896-1902
 by James Jacques Joseph Tissot    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 
 
Judah, The same brother who decades earlier had suggested Joseph be sold rather than be killed, begged for understanding. He pouredout his heart to the great Egyptian before him. Judah hoped that by telling this regent of his father’s heartbreak and frailty the leader might accept Judah as a slave rather than take his youngest brother. 
 

Joseph could carry on the charade no longer. He cleared all the Egyptian attendants from the room. The text says, “And no man stood with him while Yosef made himself known to his brothers. And his voice cried out with weeping, and Egypt heard…” When I read those phrases I imagine a stately, handsome regent who is always in control. He is a man who has faced one challenge after another but has always kept his wits about him, analyzed, strategized, and succeeded.  He has played with his brothers, waiting for just the right time to reveal his identity.  I think he was “undone”, hearing Judah’s humility and love for Yaakov, the father Joseph hasn’t seen and possibly thought he never would see again. The narrative sets the scene in a compelling way. Joseph is so overcome that he loses his controlled facade. Alone with his brothers he lets out such a cry of anguish that the entire land of Mizrayim (Egypt) hears… What powerful text. Joseph forgave his brothers. He feasted with them, gave them gifts of clothing and food, and convinced them to return to Egypt and live in comfort.

Although the story had begun many years earlier with fraternal jealousy, the brothers reunited and rebuilt their family. This was contrary to the patterns we had seen before. Cain killed his brother Abel. Isaac grew up without his brother Ishmael.  Jacob and Esau never truly reconciled. In this story we see Joseph and Judah build the unified family which would become a nation.

VaYigashReunited  by Laya Crust

The haftarah features the prophet Ezekiel. He lived from around 622 BCE – 570 BCE and was among the 8,000 Jews exiled to Babylonia. God told Ezekiel to take two beautiful branches, carve phrases on them and display them. One branch represented the nation of Judah and the other represented Joseph’s lineage, the nation of Ephraim. Ezekiel wrote phrases about the two Jewish nations onto the branches and held the two branches together. The action was to indicate that just as the branches could be rejoined, the Israelites could be reunited and grow together as one unified nation.

Both readings are about unity. In every era and in every generation there are disagreements between different sectors of Jews. The competition for leadership, the separation of the nations – began as early as the story of Cain and Abel. We have seen the story played out over and over again. We allow ourselves to be divided by traditions, dress, levels of observance, and politics. We are stronger as a united people.

We live in frightening times which are harder to navigate if we are divided. We witness and experience the Covid-19 epidemic, international terrorism, increasd anti-Semitism, tyrannical dictatorships waging war on its citizens and neighbours, slavery, rising opiad deaths, and bizarre weather related disasters. On the other hand we live in a time with potential for incredible good. Using medical innovation, social network, communication and the sharing of resources, we can create and heal the world.

 Just as Joseph and his brothers could forge a better future together, we can do the same. Joseph saved Egypt and its neighbours from starvation through sharing wisdom and strategy- we have the potential to do the same.

With prayers for peace and understanding,

Shabbat Shalom,    Laya

The painting “Reunited”, showing Ezekiel writing on a branch,  is one of the images in my forthcoming book, “ILLUMINATIONS: The Art of Haftarah”. Stay tuned for more information!

Shabbat Shalom,  Laya

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Reunited

Joseph by Laya Crust

           

Parsha: VaYigash                                   Haftarah:   Ezekiel 37: 15-28

For the last number of weeks we have been reading about our ancestors,  Jacob’s children. More specifically, we have read about Joseph’s trajectory from favoured son at home, to being a slave, and then to becoming viceroy of all Egypt. By the time he was thirty years old Joseph ruled Egypt. He ran the finances and oversaw all of Egypt’s policies.

In this week’s Torah reading Joseph’s brothers still did not know that the leader they were speaking to was their brother. This parsha begins just after Benjamin had been “framed”. Joseph’s personal silver chalice had been “planted” in Benjamin’s belongings, and the Israelite brothers had been told that Benjamin would become enslaved to Pharaoh’s court as payment for the infraction. Joseph was playing a game with his brothers. 

English: Joseph Converses With Judah, His Brot...Joseph Converses With Judah, His Brother, c. 1896-1902
 by James Jacques Joseph Tissot    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 
Judah, the same brother who decades earlier had suggested that Joseph be sold rather than be killed, stepped forward and begged for understanding. He poured out his heart, recounting the family history to the great Egyptian before him. Judah hoped that by telling this leader of his father’s frailty the leader may accept Judah as a slave rather than take his youngest brother.

Joseph could carry on the charade no longer. He cleared all the Egyptian attendants from the room. The text says, “And no man stood with him while Yosef made himself known to his brothers. And his voice cried out with weeping, and Egypt heard…” Joseph forgave his brothers. He feasted with them, gave them gifts of clothing and food, and convinced them to return to Egypt and live in comfort. He told them how to get land so they could raise cattle.

Although the story had begun many years earlier with fraternal jealousy, the brothers reunited and rebuilt their family. This was contrary to the patterns we had seen before. Cain killed his brother Abel. Isaac grew up without his brother Ishmael.  Jacob and Esau never truly reconciled. In this story we see Joseph and Judah build the unified family which would become a nation.

VaYigashReunited  by Laya Crust

The haftarah features the prophet Ezekiel. He lived from around 622 BCE – 570 BCE and was among the 8,000 Jews exiled to Babylonia. God told Ezekiel to take two beautiful branches, carve phrases on them and display them. One branch represented the nation of Judah and the other represented Joseph’s lineage, the nation of Ephraim. Ezekiel wrote phrases about the two Jewish nations onto the branches and held the two branches together. The action was to indicate that just as the branches could be rejoined, the Israelites could be reunited and grow together as one unified nation. 

beit horon passagephoto by Yoni Lightstone, tour guide

Ezekiel also told them that God would gather them from among all the nations and bring them back  to their own land. The text reads, “Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel.” (v.  21, 22)

Both readings are about unity. In every era and in every generation there are disagreements between different sectors of Jews. We are stronger as a united people. I hope we can learn to discuss, consider, and be united for the benefit of all.

The painting “Reunited”, showing Ezekiel writing on a branch,  is one of the images in my forthcoming book, “ILLUMINATIONS: The Art of Haftarah”. Stay tuned for more information!

Shabbat Shalom,  Laya

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VaYigash

VaYigash                                                                                        Art by Laya Crust

Ezekiel      37 15-28

Ezekiel (prophet) – c.622 BCE – 570 BCE.

Ezekiel was among the 8,000 Jews exiled to Babylonia. Although much of his time was spent criticizing the behaviour of the Jewish people, he kept the spirit of the Jewish people alive during a time of despair. He was a great advocate of individual responsibility, an important trait for each person in the world to  practise no matter when he/she lives.

The haftarah’s message is unity and the unity is expressed through writing on two branches. The storyline gives a message through art and craft. Gd told Ezekiel, a prophet, to take two beautiful branches, polish the branches, carve on them and display them. Naturally this craftsmanship is an art form. The background of my painting is made up of significant phrase from Ezekiel’s speech. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

So, about those branches-  One represented the nation of Judah and the other represented the nation of Ephraim, Joseph’s lineage. Ezekiel wrote the following phrases onto the branches: “For Judah and for the children of Israel his companions” on one, and “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and of all the house of Israel his companions” on the other. Ezekiel then held the two branches up in front of a gathering of the exiled Jews. He showed that the two groups could be reunited and grow together as one unified nation. He also told them that Gd would gather them from among all the nations and bring them back  to their own land. The text reads, “I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel.” (v. 22)

beit horon passage

Photo by Yoni Lightstone tour guide

This speech by Ezekiel comes right after the vision of The Valley of the Dry Bones. He is preaching unity of the nation, and the revival of their political and spiritual connection to their Gd and their land.

This week’s parsha continues the saga of Joseph and his brothers. We have read how Joseph was sold into slavery. Jacob went into deep mourning believing Joseph was dead when in reality Joseph was imprisoned and ultimately made high vizier in Egypt. He was second only to Pharaoh in his powers. The Middle East suffered a debilitating drought and Jacob’s family was forced to go to Egypt to purchase food. We have read how Joseph recognized his brothers but hid his identity from them. Now, finally, Joseph has revealed his identity and they have all been reunited. The haftarah echoes the family reuniting.

It is written in this week’s Haftarah: “Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them to their own land.” (v.21). We see it happening today. Jews from all over the world are coming to Israel. But- you don’t have to be Jewish! Come to Israel! Visit! It’s beautiful there.

Enjoy this holiday time,

Laya

 

 

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