Torah Portion: P’kudei(Accounts) Exodus(Sh’mot) 38:21-40:38
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 7:40-8:38
Tonight, we finish the book of Sh’mot/Exodus as we read of the listing of all the material used in the construction of the Mishkan or Tabernacle and of the setting up of the structure. As we come to the end of this Torah portion we read of the glory of G-d settling on the Mishkan. In Exodus 38:34-35 we read where even Moshe could not enter the Mishkan because of the cloud that covered it and the glory of the L-rd filled it. In II Chronicles7:1-3 we again read of the Spirit of G-d falling when the first Temple was dedicated on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
In both of these cases, here in our portion and later in Jerusalem, G-d’s presence came and rested on the structure, showing His acceptance and favor toward the people. This Presence was the same that settled on the top of the mountain in Sinai.
However, centuries later, after the Babylonian conquest and dispersion of the children of Israel to Babylon, we see a different picture play out in Ezra 6:15-22. First, a little background. In 586 BCE Israel was taken captive by the Babylonians and moved to Babylon. They were there for 70 years before King Darius of the Persian empire allowed the Jews to return to Israel and Jerusalem. Not only allowing them to go back home but also paying the expenses for their return and resettlement. Oddly, however, many Jews did not return. They had grown comfortable in Babylon. They had assimilated into that society. These Jews did not return until they were expelled in 1950 from what today is Iraq. They were then thrown out with only the clothes they could wear. They left all their wealth and property behind.
These events have a bearing on what did not happen at the second Temple constructed by Ezra. When given the opportunity, many Jews chose not to return. They chose to not uproot their family and travel back to Israel even if it was to claim G-d’s promises made to them as His chosen people. So, when Ezra was able to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and have its dedication, there were people who wept because there were so many of their brothers and sisters who chose to stay in Babylon. G-d’s spirit did not fall on this second temple because of the division among the people.
All this brings me to today and our experiences as believers. How often do we see congregations falling apart because of division or arguments over petty things? We read verses like John 13:35, John 17:23, I Cor. 1:10 and Eph 4:11-13. There will surely be things that arise that need to be talked through and decisions made, however that process should never dissolve into name calling, anger and hatred.
Yet we see that happening around the world. In history there have been wars fought over such things. Millions have died over similar issues. We as G-d’s people should strive to not allow division or different opinions to drive us apart. Hatred of others is a sin and when we have that happening in congregations we will not see G-d’s spirit falling on us.
Now to my other topic for tonight. Last week in our discussion of Shabbat it was brought up that the Jews were angry with Yeshua for healing on the Sabbath. That started me thinking about the question of who exactly was angry with Yeshua. I sent out a list of five scriptures I would like us to take a look at and see what we can learn about the political and cultural setting at the time of Yeshua and how the translation of certain words might have contributed to our misunderstanding of what scripture is actually saying.
First, here are the scriptures I sent out, John 1:19, 2:18-20, 5:10, 15-16,18 and John 7:11-15.
You may notice all of these verses are found in the book of John. John used a certain Greek word in each of these verses along with other verses. In fact, he used this word over 50 times in his writing while this same Greek word is used only 12 times in all the other gospels combined. The word John used so often is Ioudaioi. The problem arises not with John’s use of the word but rather how it was translated into English. The translation of this word has been used to legitimize anti-Jewish feelings, doctrines and policy of the Church toward Jewish people over the centuries. This word has several meanings. It can mean “Jews” or much more often it means Jewish authorities such as the Pharisees or High Priests. This latter meaning is the one that, by context and John’s intentions, should have been used in almost all cases. However, the translators chose to use the English word “Jews” giving the impression that all Jews were against Yeshua. That is not born out by the simple reading of scripture. He fed 5,000 people, He had to get into a boat to speak because the crowds wanting to hear him were so large. He was taken by night so His followers would not know until it was too late what had happened.
However, by using the generic translation of Jews, misconceptions and wrong translations are still heard today in anti-Semitic speeches, writings, and even in many churches. We must continue to study deeper and deeper to understand the truth of scripture.