Sunday, March 22, 2009

The "vocabulary parshiot"

I came to the conclusion some years ago that the most useful thing I could learn from the parshiot (weekly Torah/Bible readings) about the construction of the Mishkan (rough translations: Tent of Meeting, Tabernacle in the Wilderness), which we just completed this past Shabbat/Sabbath, was a bunch of new Hebrew words. First came the colors: techelet (blue), argaman (purple), tolaat or tolaat shani (scarlet), not to mention the oft-associated shesh (linen) or shesh moshzar (fine twined linen--pardon the transliteration, as I'm not quite sure how to pronounce it). Then there's the sal (basket) and the kiyor (wash basin). And the list of construction materials and items goes on and on: atzei shittim (acacia word), badim (staves, poles), amudim (pillars, although how shesh, linen, becomes amudei shesh, pillars of linen, is a mystery to me), adanim (sockets), lulaot (loops), and this year's additions, k'rasim (clasps) and k'rashim (boards). More to follow in future years. I also have some questions this year. Do tsal and tsad both mean side? How many kinds of y'riyot (curtains) are there, anyway: What's the difference between a kaporet and a parochet? (And what's the connection between the Mishkan's kaporet and "shluggen kapores"?)

Now, if only I could figure out something useful to do with the sacrifice and, worst of all (for me), the "leprosy" (tzoraat) readings . . .


Blogger Elie said...

In general, a great chumash for making the Torah really understandable, especially for technical parshas like this one, is The Living Torah. It's the only one I use.

On some of your questions:
- Do tsal and tsad both mean side? Where is the word "tsal" in the parshah? It doesn't ring a bell.

How many kinds of y'riyot (curtains) are there, anyway?

First, the word "curtains" is not really accurate here; the Yiriot were what constituted the ohel itself, so tent or roof would be a better translation.

That said, there were 3 or 4 sets:
- On the bottom, multicolored woven ones, made of ten 28x4 amos units, sewn/clasped together.
- Next, ones made of goat's wool, which were eleven 30x4 amos units, sewn/clasped together.
- Finally on top, a covering of reddened rams skins and a covering of "techashim" skins, or according to some meforshim, a single covering made of both materials.

What's the difference between a kaporet and a parochet?

Though they sound alike, they are two entirely separate items. The Kapores was the Aron (ark) cover, made of gold and topped by the golden Keruvim ("cherubs"). The Paroches was the curtain which separated the Kodesh Kodashim ("Holy of Holies"), where
the Aron resided, from the Kodesh ("Holy") area, which housed the Shulchan, Menorah, and incense altar.

And what's the connection between the Mishkan's kaporet and "shluggen kapores

Both come from the same root Kapar - Kaph Peh Resh - which means to cover or to atone.

Mon Mar 23, 12:22:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Elie, is the Living Torah a bilingual edition? I like to read my Chumash in both languages, both for the "flavor" of the original (and the possibility that I'll spot some familiar quotes--see me "quote-hunter" series) and for the kick of learning new words (as you can see).

Hmm, I thought I saw a tsal somewhere, but I'll look again.

Wow, thanks for the "curtains" explanation. That really does clarify matters, though I've never quite figured out where our ancestors found seal or dolphin skins (depending on the translation) in the Sinai.

Re shluggen kapores, though, why would anyone want to "cover" themselves with a chicken? (Full disclosure: I've never been a great fan of vicarious atonement, especially when there's an innocent animal involved. This doesn't exactly make me a supporter of the resumption of animal sacrifice. Yes, I eat meat, but I eat it as *food,* not as a substitute for my sins. Not that it makes much difference to the animal, but there's a matter of principle involved.)

Mon Mar 23, 07:40:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Elie said...

Yes, the Living Torah is available in a Hebrew/English edition. Should be quite easy to find in any good Jewish bookstore, and also available on Amazon, etc. The translation is by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, an extremely brilliant scientist/rabbi who sadly died much too young. It's a very readable translation with a wealth of background data - e.g., in Terumah, he gives about seven or eight possibilities as to what animal the "tachash" is.

Again, the verb "kapar" means both cover (cognate to the English!) and to forgive/atone sins. The ideas are related in that we are asking God to "cover over" our sins by forgiving them.

Tue Mar 24, 12:02:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I'll keep "The Living Torah" in mind for the future, meaning after I (a) go back on salary and (b) finish paying the medical bills from my recent broken wrists.

Ah, I just checked James S. Diamond's "Stringing the Pearls: How to Read the Weekly Torah Portion," and I see that "The Living Torah" got a good write-up. One of these years, if I ever I become studious, maybe I'll take Dr. Diamond's excellent advice concerning serious parshah study.

So "cover" is related to "kapar"? Interesting.

Tue Mar 24, 09:01:00 PM 2009  

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