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Shemot/Exodus 26:15 And you will make the boards for the Mishkan of acacia wood, standing upright
While most translations take the word as 'boards' or 'beams', Friedman (Commentary on the Torah) chooses 'frames'. Davidson reports that the word is a standard masculine plural noun from the root , which is not used in the text of the Hebrew Scriptures; its use in Arabic is "to cut", so Davidson allows three meanings: 'board', 'plank' or 'bench', the latter of a ship. Brown-Driver-Briggs states that the root means "to be or become firm or solid" and extends the meaning of the noun to include the decking of a ship. The word is used 51 times in the Hebrew Scriptures: mostly here in Shemot 26, where the instructions for the Tabernacle's construction are given, and in Shemot 36 where the construction itself is related; there is a single occurrence each in B'Midbar 3:36 and 4:31 where the duties of the Levites are described - in all these occurrences, the context is that of the Tabernacle. There is one isolated use of the word in Ezekiel 27:6 where it is taken as the decking of a ship in a lament over Tyre. Its use in the Mishnah (tractate Shabbat) and Exodus Rabbah is also consistent with the components of the Tabernacle.
So why does Friedman prefer 'frames' to 'boards'? He says: "frames: Trellises - not solid boards or planks. If they were solid, then the linen curtains would be sandwiched between the boards on the inside and the goats' hair and leather coverings on the outside and could never be seen." Friedman seems to be concerned that the curtains - which were made, after all, of "fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet ... with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman" (Shemot 26:1, NASB) - will never be seen or appreciated except during the times when the Tabernacle is dismantled and re-erected during travel; even then, only the priests and the Levites would see them as the people were not allowed to watch the process. All that craftsmanship, the beauty of the rich materials and the embroidery would be lost; simply another layer of covering for the Tabernacle, obscured on one side by solid wood and on the other by the much less attractive layers of goat hair and leather coverings.
Many stories have come down to us, from both the shteltls of Eastern Europe and earlier times, of individuals who may themselves have been either rich or poor, who begged alms - charity, tzedaka - from the wealthier members of their communities in order to distribute it to the poor, sick and needy. In this way, the donors were isolated from the recipients, often not knowing who had given or to whom. Jewish tradition sets the highest value on charitable giving where neither the recipient or the donor know who each other are, so that it is impossible for the donor to receive any thanks - thus receiving all his reward in the Olam Haba, the World to Come - and the recipient should not be embarrassed or feel unable to take an equal place in the life of the community, simply blessing G-d for His provision.
Yeshua clearly speaks into this idea when He says, "When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matthew 6:3-4, NASB). But Yeshua extends the concept beyond the physical giving of charity or doing good deeds: "When you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (vv.5-6, NASB).
Here then, perhaps, is an answer to the boards/frames issue. G-d knows that the decorated linen curtains are there, that they were made for Him; the priests and the Levites, who carry them and put them up and take them down, know that they are there; those who gave the material and did the work know that the curtains are in use. The curtains enlarge the glory of G-d's presence without being seen on a routine basis, but they are still there, an essential and commanded part of the Tabernacle, the house of G-d. So should our prayers and giving be also.
Further Study: Ephesians 2:19-22; Hebrews 6:10
Application: Whilst it is sometimes necessary to do things in public, to work together with others, try finding space to spend time alone with G-d this week; He knows that you are there and He sees you even if you think that you are invisible.
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
Comment - 19Feb07 13:22 Kevin Van Liew: In our world of religious glitz and glitter I'm frequently disappointed in the importance placed on elevating man's accomplishments. Realizing without HIM nothing is possible. Thank you for this timely and blessed word from our L-RD, reminding me to walk humbly before "HIM"
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