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The Music of Halacha: Seeing The World Through The Eyes of Halacha

My father zt”l had a standard gift for each of his grandchildren: large cardboard bricks, which provided countless hours of entertainment for the kids. I was an uncle when I was six years old and had spent much time

caring for my nieces and nephews, especially building forts with Zaidy’s bricks. By the time my children received their first Zaidy’s bricks, I was an expert in building forts. As a father, my forts became increasingly complex, especially when we wanted to protect ourselves from attacking vegetables. So, when my children wanted to build a model of the Mishkan, I was up to the task. Our Mishkan was magnificent. We even folded the kids’ blankets exactly as the coverings of the Mishkan. We spent an entire Friday building our project, I had no sermon prepared for Shabbat morning, and I had another, more serious, problem.

My children needed their blankets to sleep. Were we permitted to take down our Mishkan on Shabbat? Demolishing a structure is prohibited on Shabbat. Our Mishkan did not qualify as a structure. However, the problem became more complex when the kids said, “We’ll take the blankets now and put them back tomorrow morning.” We derive the laws of demolishing, one of the thirty-nine categories of prohibited creativity, from the fact that the Children of Israel would disassemble the Mishkan before traveling in order to reassemble it when they camped at the end of a journey.

Although I was halachically permitted to remove the blankets, even to replace them the next morning, I realized that I had an opportunity to teach my children some of the laws of Shabbat. Our Mishkan was too small to place anything inside, so it was like a folding table, which may be opened because the area underneath is not used. If Zaidy had provided more bricks, and we had built a larger Mishkan, we would not be permitted to cover it on Shabbat, much as we may not cover a large barrel on Shabbat, which is considered the same as erecting a tent. But I had a chance to teach my children how we derive the Shabbat laws from the Mishkan. I refused to disassemble our Mishkan on Shabbat.

I found other blankets and towels for the kids to use to sleep. They wanted to sleep camped around the Mishkan, so I slept in the center in the place of Levi, and positioned the children in the four directions around the Mishkan. One of them decided to bring his wagon in from the yard, even though it was covered with snow, so that we would also have the wagons used to carry the Mishkan when traveling.

My children were unbearable in shul the next morning as they monitored everything that people were doing to prepare the Kiddush. They stopped the janitor from stacking chairs because they paskened that he was building. (He wasn’t!) They were examining the world through the eyes of Shabbat. Although I thought it was fantastic, my congregants were not so pleased, especially the other children who were stopped from building forts with the desks in one of the classrooms. Very few members of the congregation were Shabbat observant and my kids were being quite heavy. My children were learning to view the world through the eyes of Halacha, at least one area of Halacha. Few people have such an opportunity. It is interesting that the Midrash uses the destruction of Jerusalem as such an opportunity.

Seeing The World Through The Eyes of Halacha

The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, “I wrote in My Torah, ‘The one who kindled the fire shall make restitution.’ (Exodus 22:5) I am the One who burned Jerusalem, as it says, ‘From on high He sent a fire.’ (Lamentations 1:13) Therefore I must comfort Israel with fire, as it says, ‘And I will be for it – the word of God – a wall of fire around and for glory will I be in its midst.’ (Zechariah 2:9)”

The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, “I wrote in My Torah, ‘You shall not turn over to his master a slave,’ (Deuteronomy 23:16) and yet I gave Israel over as slaves to other nations, ‘If not that their Rock had sold them out.’ (32:30) I wrote in My Torah, ‘You shall not complete your reaping to the corner of your field,’ (Leviticus 19:9) and yet I wiped them out all the way to the corners, as it says, ‘God vented His fury, He poured out His burning anger; He kindled a fire in Zion which consumed its foundations.’ (Lamentations 4:11)” – Pesikta Rabbati 30:3

Is the Midrash teaching us that God violated His own Torah and Halacha when He destroyed Jerusalem?

It seems that the Sages are using Halacha to not only explain, but also to demand why it is God, Who must comfort us. They are using Halacha as the framework through which they can demonstrate a structure that will allow us to maintain our perspective despite the vicissitudes of our history. The Sages are asking us to view the world through the eyes of Halacha, hopefully with more grace than my children used when learning about Shabbat.

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