Moderate Extremists and The Miraculous Middle

Kli Yakar Exodus: Trumah

Moderate Extremists and The Miraculous Middle

My paternal grandparents were born in the same town but into different nationalities. The currently Ukrainian town of Beregszász was part of the Austrio-Hungarian empire. The other nations that have since claimed and administered this vibrant town in the Carpathian mountains included Russia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and most recently, Ukraine. It sits at the current intersection or close enough to Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.

My father often likes to point out some of the personalities that this town gave birth to. My grandparents were apparently middle-of-the-road Jews, working people, modern in the sense of clothing and working with Gentiles, yet respectful and learned in the Jewish laws and traditions. There were a number of ultra-Orthodox Chasidic Rabbis on one hand, and on the other hand it was also the birthplace of Rabbi Hugo Gryn who went on to become an extremly popular leader of Reform Judaism in the UK.

From my grandfather’s point of view, he might have considered himself in the middle of this spectrum of Judaism. Yet one might also argue that both the ultra-Orthodox Rabbis and Rabbi Hugo Gryn also saw themselves firmly and properly in the middle of their worldviews.

In Exodus Chapter 26, the Kli Yakar recounts how there was a miracle surrounding the central pole that connected the beams of the Tabernacle. Apparently the pole was able to bend in a supernatural fashion and thereby group all the beams together, from one end of the Tabernacle to the other.

According to the Kli Yakar, there are three other things that have the power to join disparate elements together, to unite even extremes. That is the prime purpose of the Tabernacle (and afterwards the Temple) to join Heaven and Earth, the spiritual to the material, the elevated to the mundane. The second item are stars. Apparently, in some cosmological sense that I don’t fully understand, stars are bridges between our world and otherwordly, cosmic forces. I’ll just take the Kli Yakar’s word for it.

The third and final uniter is man himself. Man has the ability to encompass an extreme divergence of viewpoints. Man can bring together people from opposite sides of political, religious, economic, educational and almost any other divergence we can think of. Man has that power.

May we learn to unite what is appropriate and stay away from the rest.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the protestors in Egypt (and several other places) dealing with various issues of moderate, extremists and unity. Good luck. I just hope we don’t end up with a worse situation…

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