Sunday, March 09, 2008

653. The Shabbat of Inventory

I decided that a better name for this past Shabbat, instead of Parashat Pekudei/Shabbat Shekalim, would be The Shabbat of Inventory. We read from three scrolls: 1. More little jeweled parts of the tabernacle. 2. In honor of Rosh Hodesh, many words about about the details of sacrifices, bulls of pleasant odor, etc. 3. In honor of Shabbat Shekalim the injunction, once again, to give a half shekel when the census is taken.

I imagine a bright, sunny day in ancient Jerusalem, and a wealthy pillar of the community who’s too busy to go to the marketplace on Monday or Thursday to hear the public chanting of Torah. He sends his assistant instead, a skinny, nervous guy right out of scribe school, to report on the words of the week. “Take notes!" commands the boss. And so young Mr. Scribe comes prepared with ink and parchment scraps and scratches furiously away, trying not to miss a detail. Was that two gold rings or 22? Exactly how many bulls? He can’t write fast enough, but manages to commit the rest to memory (he hopes). He wishes God would get His act together and invent IM so he can ask Shloime on the other side of the fishmonger’s stand what the meturgeman really said. He goes back to the old man’s big tent and recites the entire inventory. Reb Businessman is pleased, and presents his first daughter as a wife in gratitude.* And thus words of Torah were passed down from generation to generation, actual numbers of bulls perhaps fudged but the meaning behind them always ripe for interpretation.
* I have no idea if the above description is plausible, but it was fun to imagine.

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