The River, the Bird, and the KettleFebruary 17, 2014 - 5:00 am
Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do.”—Exodus 35:1
The Torah portion for this week is Vayakhel, which means “assembled,” from Exodus 35:1—38:20, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:13–26.
The Sages teach that there are three symbols for peace: the river, the bird, and the kettle.
A river was traditionally used as a means of connection between one town and another. It was a way for people to do business and meet one another. A bird makes its home on land, but can fly high up in the sky. It bridges heaven and earth as it travels between the two. The kettle takes two opposing forces and brings them together to create something good. Fire wants to boil away water; water seeks to extinguish a fire. However, when a kettle comes between them, both thrive and together they create an end result that contributes to humanity.
For the past few weeks, the Torah readings have largely focused on the plans for construction of the Tabernacle. This week, we witness the actual construction. Just before the work began, Moses assembled the people together as one unified group. Moses instructed the people that the Tabernacle about to be built would serve as a conduit for unity. It would take on the three qualities of the river, the bird, and the kettle.
Like a river, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, would be a way for people to connect with each other. It would be a meeting place for all Israel and everyone who would come on pilgrimages on the festival days. The Tabernacle would also function like a bird, connecting heaven and earth. This was the place where a person could most experience God. It was the place where man connected with His Creator. Finally, the Tabernacle had the power of a kettle. While people generally hold different beliefs and opinions which can lead to quarrels and division, the Tabernacle stood as a symbol for what the people had in common — a belief in God and the desire to serve Him. All differences melted away for the sake of this common cause.
Today, we no longer have the Tabernacle or the Temple, but the Sages teach that each individual can become a “mini-sanctuary.” We can all make a place for God to dwell within ourselves, like a sanctuary, and in doing so, we take on the qualities of the river, bird, and kettle.
So, like a river, let us join people together through building bridges of understanding and making connections. Like the bird, let us strive to connect with our Father in heaven even as we live on earth. And like the kettle, let us make peace between opposing forces as we focus on our common values, beliefs, and God’s purposes.