Thursday, March 02, 2006

Terumah (Haftarah)

“And Solomon built the Temple of cedar wood…”

The regular haftarah for Terumah is from 1 Kings 5:26-6:13: appropriately enough, to complement the Torah portion, which contains detailed instructions about the gathering of materials for the Tabernacle and its construction, the haftarah provides corresponding details for the construction of Solomon’s Temple. It begins with a detailed description of how Solomon made a peace treaty with King Hiram of Lebanon, enabling him to obtain the basic materials needed for the framework of the Temple: the famed cedars of Lebanon. We are told that work crews were conscripted from among the people, who would spend one month in Lebanon and two months at home (a reminder of our own recent national trauma, with rather different tours of duty; a nightmare that I fear is not yet over). The bulk of the haftarah is devoted to detailing the dimensions of the Temple, and various aspects of its construction. I must confess that I personally find little of interest here; nevertheless, for those with an eye for this sort of detail, there are many interesting questions to be asked. First and foremost, a comparison of the dimensions and details of the Temple with those of the Tabernacle: in general, the overall design was the same, but the sizes of the various sections parts differed. In general, the easily portable structure in the desert was smaller and less imposing. There were also certain additions: an external recessed vestibule, whose upper stories were wider than its lower ones, supported by a buttresses of sorts (an early precursor of the medieval flying buttresses of the medieval European cathedral?); recessed windows; etc. Next week’s haftarah, which presents the design of the future temple from the prophet Ezekiel, raises even more problems.

The haftarah ends on a theological note, referring to the essential religious of purpose of the Temple, which also closely parallels the Torah portion: “and I shall dwell among the children of Israel, and will not abandon my people Israel” (6:13; compare Exod 25:8; 29:45-46; 40:34).


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