Lighting God’s House (Trumah)
Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Torah portion of Trumah deals primarily with the building components of the Tabernacle. It first lists all of the raw materials: gold, silver, copper, various colored yarns, linens, skins, and wood. It mentions precious stones, of which we receive a detailed listing later on. The portion also specifies all of the construction details, every article of the Tabernacle including the Ark, the Table of the Showbread, the Candelabrum, as well as the exact construction of the walls of the Tabernacle. Afterward, we get details of the ritual vestments of the Kohens, especially those of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, who among other items wore the Breastplate embedded with twelve different precious stones.
Nestled in between these very concrete, architectural, and sartorial elements and descriptions are two notable and unusual exceptions.
The Torah also lists:
“Oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense.”
The Bechor Shor on Exodus 25:6 wonders why these specific non-building or vestment components are itemized in the middle in what was otherwise a shopping list for the constructors and tailors. He further wonders, that if indeed the Torah felt the need to digress into some of the operations of the Tabernacle such as oil for lighting and anointing and spices for the incense, why then doesn’t it also list the other operations such as baking bread or offering sacrifices?
The Bechor Shor answers that the anointing oil was required for anointing the Tabernacle implements and therefore could be considered part of the building process. The spices also required specialized artisans to prepare them and the ingredients needed to be specially itemized and assembled beforehand. However, that doesn’t answer the need for “oil for lighting.”
The Bechor Shor further elaborates that it is not the way of a king to enter his home before the place has been illuminated for him. It is not proper for a king to enter a darkened abode. Similarly, the spices are required so that the home should have a pleasant fragrance. It would be inappropriate for the king to enter a home that is dark and malodorous. Therefore, the oil and the spice, the light and incense are indeed building requirements. They are vital components for building the Tabernacle, to light it, and to perfume it.
May we ever be in bright and sweet-smelling abodes, and if not, make them so.
To beautiful and gentle snowfall.