Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha

Not incumbent on you to complete the work BUT

For me the key to the paradoxes that run through the passages relating to the mishkan is neatly and beautifully expressed in the words of Rabbi Tarfon quoted at the head of the Paul Goodman extract: “It is not incumbent on you to complete the work; but neither are you free to withdraw from it”.

It is not incumbent, nor indeed is it likely or even possible. “The work” is for ever ongoing, the work of building, of creating the mishkan, of welcoming and celebrating that which is greater than each one of us: the folly we commit “just to live on a little”.

Contributing to the work is voluntary, but at the same time required. The Rabbis speak, here and elsewhere, of the price to be paid not as some kind of insurance or as a quid pro quo but as a ransom, which means payment for the release of something or someone that is confined. You are not free to withdraw from it because your freedom is always relative, never absolute: you are free within set limits. Freedom is the recognition of necessity.

Now of course one man’s necessity may be another man’s open choice, but for those who identify not so much with any fixed place as with a journeying and a community of journeying, what better way of being than in the fashioning of a portable mishkan, whatever its truest shape may be.

So call in the artisans and sculptors and all whose spirit moves them.



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