Haftarah Parshat Terumah (1 Kings 5:26-6:13)
February 13, 2016 / 4 Adar A 5776
Both the Torah reading and the haftarah are chock full of inventory lists and architectural details, enough to weary those of us who are not inclined to such things. Still, close attention to the details in the language used to describe Solomon’s role in the completion of the building the Temple and God’s charge to him offer up some important insights into the biblical view of the role of human beings in the world.
The way something is expressed in biblical accounts offers clues into the meaning of an action. For this reason, the description of Solomon’s completion of the Temple is significant: “So he built the House (the Temple) and completed it (vayeehaleihu – from the Hebrew root kaf lamed hey)” (6:9; 6:14) is so significant. The use of this word parallels a similar use in the Torah’s description of God’s creation of the world: “And the heaven and the earth were completed (vayahulu).” (Genesis 2:1) The use of this verb in both instances indicates the acknowledgement of similar roles. God created the world or cosmos and Solomon created the Temple or a microcosm of the larger project. Human creative acts are to be seen as an act of imitating God in the best sense of the word.
This message is not left untouched. God is concerned not only with the building of this microcosmic project. Its maintenance is important as well. This is why He leaves Solomon with a charge to ensure its continued existence: “As for this House which you are building, if you follow My laws and do My ordinances and keep all of My commandments, then I will establish My word with you.” (6:12) God charges His “imitators” with the maintenance of the mini-world that they have created by establishing a normative order for them to live by. Without this stability, God predicts its downfall.
A midrash found in the Talmud leaves God’s servants with a similar responsibility for the world itself: “The Holy One Blessed Be He stipulated with the works of creation and said to them: ‘If Israel accepts the Torah, you will exist, but if not, I will turn you back into emptiness and formlessness.” (Shabbat 88a)
The point of these teaching is that human beings hold not only the awesome responsibility of being the only creatures with the ability to act in tandem with their Creator; they are also given an even greater challenge as the guardians of both what they themselves create and the creation of their Master. In these words, Solomon’s House presents us with our reason for being.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
Rashei Yeshiva: Rabbi Joel Levy & Dr. Joshua Kulp.
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