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Shemot/Exodus 37:17 He made it of hammered work; its base, shaft, cups, rings of outer leaves and flowers
The commentators are almost universally silent for several chapters during this parasha, which relates the building of the Mishkan and the construction of all its furniture, decorations and utensils. Many people have suggested that this report section is really very similar to the instruction section several chapters earlier, so that it is not necessary to re-comment on material that has already been covered. In doing so, however, it is all too easy to miss the singular event that is inserted between the command and its fulfillment: the incident of the Golden Calf.
The Hebrew word used for the construction of the menorah, , comes from the root , which means "to be hard, harsh, severe or difficult". The various nouns and adjectives that are derived from that root imply something that is hard or unyielding, difficult, stubborn or even obstinate. The masculine noun means a wreathing or plaiting of the hair and is seen in Isaiah 3:24 - "instead of well-set hair, a plucked out scalp" (NASB). The noun used here is feminine and is deemed to mean a piece of turned work. Gesenius relates it to the Arabic , which means to take off bark, especially by turning. But what does all that add to the picture? Isn't it obvious from the description of the menorah, with all its cups, flowers, petals and stems, that it would be extremely difficult to make from one piece of gold, however pure?
The Golden Calf incident, a clear example of avodah zorah (strange, forbidden worship) before the ink on the covenant document was even dry, caused a major rupture in the relationship between G-d and our people. It was repaired at the cost of 3,000 lives, Moshe offering to be blotted out of the covenant and G-d at first refusing to accompany the people into the Land. Yet only in the next parasha (i.e. this parasha), we find the construction of the Mishkan proceeding exactly as G-d originally prescribed. G-d's purposes were greater than and outlived the breakdown; His instructions survived and persisted over the hiatus. G-d forgave the people their sin - although there were clearly consequences that needed to be faced - and re-commissioned the people with a fresh set of tablets, witnessing to the covenant. So the menorah was hard work to craft; as the unity among the people was hard to produce; the material of the menorah was stubborn and unyielding as the heart of the people could be.
G-d wanted to heal the wound; He wanted to re-commission the people and He is still in the 'restart' business today. After the stunning victory over the priests of Ba'al at Mt. Carmel, Elijah ran away when threatened by Izevel, Akhav's queen; he was met at Mt. Horeb byHaShem and re-commissioned to finish the job, because there was still work to do. Kefa, after he had denied Yeshua three times was met on the sea-shore and re-commissioned by Yeshua in his role of apostle and leader, because he still had work to do.
Further Study: 1 Kings 19:9-18; John 21:15-22
Application: Have you slipped up, or deliberately sinned, causing a relationship breakdown between you and G-d? If so, then know that G-d wants to repair that relationship; He can forgive your sin - no matter how great - in Yeshua, and wants to re-commission you in the service of the kingdom. For there is work to be done and you are the one to do it.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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