Torah Fax
Friday, February 23, 2007 - 5 Adar, 5767

Torah Reading Terumah (Exodus  25:1 - 27:19)
Candle Lighting Time 5:21 PM
Shabbat ends 6:22 PM 

One, Love and Unity

This week's parsha, Terumah, opens with the command to collect contributions of the Jewish people for the purpose of constructing the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in the desert. According to Rashi there were thirteen different items that were donated. 
Clearly, the number 13 is significant. If every detail of the Torah is precise, certainly this is true about a detail of the Mishkan, about which the Torah declares that it would bring G‑d's presence to dwell within the Jewish community. What then is the significance that there were thirteen items donated to this building project?
One theme associated with the number thirteen is the "thirteen Divine attributes of mercy." Also, the number thirteen represents the twin ideals of love and unity. The Hebrew words for love and unity are Ahavah and Echad, respectively. Each of these words has the numerical value (gimatriya) of thirteen.
What does the number 13 have to do with love and unity? The answer can be found in the narrative concerning Jacob's last will and testament to his twelve sons. As he was about to reveal to them what will happen in the end of days, the Shechinah-Divine presence left him. At that point, he suspected that perhaps his children's faith in the unity of G‑d had been compromised and that they did not merit to have the Shechinah bestow a blessing upon them. When the sons of Jacob realized what they were suspected of, they said to their father: "Hear O Israel (Jacob's other name was Israel), G‑d is our G‑d, G‑d is one. Just as you have only one in your heart, so too, we have only one in our hearts."
But how could Jacob possibly suspect his sons that they harbored a belief in more than one G‑d? In truth, Jacob's concern was not about their fidelity to the belief in G‑d, it was about the way they integrated the notion of unity into their lives.
The twelve sons of Jacob represent the various spiritual categories within the Jewish people. Jacob was concerned that their differences and the lack of love that might have prevailed between them, was a sign that the awareness of the unity of G‑d did not permeate their existence. As such, they were not ready for the future Redemption.
In Jacob's mind, he had twelve sons, each with a different conception of G‑d that was at variance with his brothers' conceptions. To Jacob that was a sign that their notion of unity was drastically different from his own.
When a person is imbued with the unity of G‑d then it leads to loving G‑d. And when one loves G‑d, one also loves the one whom G‑d loves. Hence, when there is a lack of love between brothers, that can be an indication that their love for G‑d, which comes from a profound appreciation for G‑d's unity, is lacking as well.
They therefore replied to their father that just as there was none other in his heart, so too was the belief in G‑d complete in their hearts. They noted that their division into twelve was not a contradiction to their obsession with G‑d's unity. And just as Jacob, who had only one heart, and therefore a singular faith in and devotion to G‑d, was able to translate this unity into the diverse aspects of his life, so too, the tribes affirmed, the unity of G‑d suffused all of their variegated "hearts."
We can now understand the significance of the number thirteen. Thirteen is twelve plus one. This means that while the twelve tribes were indeed diverse personalities, each with his own interests and character, nevertheless, they also had One above them. Thus, the number thirteen represents the power that unified the twelve tribes generated love between them.
This explains why the number thirteen is the numerical equivalent of the words for love and unity. The number thirteen expresses the ideal of unity within diversity. Despite the diffusion into twelve disparate directions, there is a unity that transcends them and guides them without compromising the legitimate and desirable differences.
We can now understand why there were 13 items specifically that were used to construct of the Mishkan. The purpose of the Mishkan was to enable the people to experience the unity of G‑d, and the love that that experience of unity engenders. The Mishkan, a project of the entire Jewish nation, was intended to instill unity within the diversity of the twelve tribes.
The Talmud, basing itself on the book of Ezekiel, states that in the Messianic Age, Israel will be divided into thirteen tribes or sections. The thirteenth section will go to Moshiach.
In light of this, we can say that in the time of Moshiach, the significance of the number 13 will be magnified. The Messianic Age is not just a utopia. It is the time when the unity of G‑d and that of the Jewish people will reach its apex. Then we will clearly see how the thirteenth level is a part of the other twelve levels.

Moshiach Matters

When the earth was cursed at the time of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, many flourishing fruit trees became barren; thenceforth entire species of trees brought forth only brambles and thorns. The Talmud teaches, however, that all of these barren trees will eventually produce luscious fruit and that those who behold this wonder will sing joyously in the times of Moshiach. (Alshich)
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