11 Mar 2016

Pekude 5776 Love and Reverence

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Pekude 5776: Love and Reverence

‘In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two’.

 — Eric Fromm, The Art of Loving

Shemot, the book that tells the story of our freedom, ironically ends this week with the setting of restrictions. As the Mishkan project is completed the denouement is signaled with G-d’s presence filling the new space.

Now the cloud covered the Tent of Appointment, and the Glory of G-d filled the Mishkan. (40:34)

But this was not an opportunity for free engagement with an accessible deity; this was no Golden Calf. G-d’s proximity within the people meant that we would need to be aware of His presence and proceed with supreme caution and care. There would be no casual entry:

 Moshe was not able to come into the Tent of Appointment for the cloud took up dwelling on it, and the Glory of G-d filled the Mishkan. (ibid:35)

Of course Moshe was not meant to remain outside forever, he would be invited in[1] and space would be made for his own presence to approach G-d’s, but boundaries were established in order to set the terms of engagement and proximity. One could approach and come close to G-d’s Presence but one could not be in the space that was occupied by the Presence.

Why such boundaries? Why, if we were meant to be free, could we not engage and love freely? In order for love to flourish it requires boundaries. Loving relationships exist in direct proportion to the respect granted to each individual partner. The deeper the love, the more the relationship binds two together at the limits of selfhood. Limits save love from deteriorating into violation and confusion.

But boundaries beckon as much they buffer. In their delineation of appropriate distance they also help us find the appropriate closeness.

Pekude is a parasha that deals with accounts. Not only financial accountings but also accountings of the heart. G-d’s presence among us demanded that we take account of its being there and that we take care not only to honour His presence by properly withholding but to love His presence by properly engaging.

The essence of the root פ.ק.ד is ‘care’ and ‘attention’ for something. This is true of its every single usage without exception…. (Ramban, 1:3)

Love has the ability to flood as it has the ability to nourish and often in a relationship an individual can either overpower the other or lose oneself in the other. Therefore, healthy love and fellowship always includes reverence. Love is the goal, but the reverence protects its integrity.

Pekude teaches us that our deep desire for connection must always be coupled with a deep sensitivity to discernment, for the sacred borders of selfhood are themselves the golden lines that protect true love.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Dweck

 [1] The first words of the next book, Vayikra, are ‘And He (G-d) called to Moshe’.

Law and Lore

Select Laws of Purim

Mishloah Manot (Food Packages)
1.       On Purim day, we are required to send a minimum of two different foods to one person. This misvah was instituted to instil friendship and good feelings between one another.

  1. The mishloah manot must consist of food items. The misvah is not fulfilled with money or any other amenities.
  2. Drinks may be considered as one food item. Thus, one may send a cooked food and a bottle of wine to fulfil the minimum two food requirement.
  3. The two foods required must be two different foods and not simply two helpings of the same food even if they are packaged separately.
  4. One should take care to send things that are suitable for the one receiving it. For example one should not send a basket of sweets to a diabetic.
  5. The more mishloah manot one sends the better. For it instills caring among people. However, as long as the misvah was fulfilled according to halacha with one person, one need not be so particular in the contents of the additional packages sent, for they are only sent to enhance the misvah (already fulfilled).
  6. The misvah of mishloah manot may not be fulfilled at night.
  7. Both men and women over the age of bar and bat misvah (12 for girls & 13 for boys) are required to send mishloah manot. Thus children above this age living with their parents must also send mishloah manot to their friends.
  8. Mishloah manot must also be sent to a person over the age of bar and bat misvah to fulfil the obligation.
  9. Mishloah manot sent anonymously do not fulfill the obligation.

Matanot La’ebyonim (Gifts to the Poor)
1.       On Purim day, we are required to give sedaka (charity) to two poor people. One may fulfil this misvah with either money or food. It may not be fulfilled with clothes and other items.

  1. According to strict law the misvah is fulfilled by giving even the smallest amount of money. Yet it is proper to give at least an amount that one could buy 6 oz. (6 slices) of bread with.
  2. If one gave two portions of sedaka to a man and wife that were poor the requirement of giving to two poor people is fulfilled.
  3. We do not scrutinise when giving sedaka on Purim. Anyone who puts his hand out should be given something.
  4. The misvah of matanot laebyonim should be concentrated on more than the mishloah manot and the feast of Purim for gladdening the hearts of widows, orphans and the poor is the greatest joy of all.
  5. The misvah of matanot la’ebyonim may not be fulfilled at night.

Seudat Purim (The Purim Feast)
1.      On Purim day we are required to have a large feast in honour of the holiday.

  1. Properly, bread should be eaten at this meal.
  2. The hakhamim write that happiness is truly expressed with meat and wine. Thus one should make sure to provide both at the meal in accordance with one’s abilities.
  3. Women are required to partake of the meal.
  4. The misvah of the Purim feast may not be fulfilled at night. Thus one must take care to begin the meal while it is still day.
  5. The meal should be eaten early in the day. Yet, as long as it is begun while it is still day it may continue until after evening.

7.      One should take care not to get drunk to the point that he will not be able to perform misvot properly. Especially the reciting of Birkat Hamazon after the meal.