The Two Frankincense Vessels
As we proceed further along in our weekly reading of the book of Numbers, (in Hebrew, Bamidbar, literally, "in the wilderness"), we are witness to sweeping changes taking place within the nation of Israel: The twelve tribes are organized into encampments which encircle the newly completed and consecrated tabernacle. From this civilian population an army is raised. Forming an inner perimeter around the tabernacle are the encampments, according to clan affiliation, of the Levites. The sons of Aharon, the priests, have taken up their tasks within the tabernacle, and the Levite males, between the ages of twenty and fifty years, have been assigned their specific responsibilities for disassembling, transporting and reassembling the tabernacle and its vessels, when, according to the will of G-d, the entire encampment travels. A sanhedrin of judges has been appointed to teach and implement the commandments of Torah received at Sinai, to resolve disputes and to create and maintain harmony and brotherhood within the assembly. All hearts face the tabernacle and all eyes look toward the promised land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land soon to be known as Israel.
It would seem that all is well, and that the entering and conquest and settlement of the land of Israel will soon be underway. However, as we know, the road was not smooth, but bumpy. The time frame was not months, but decades. Much travail and much heartache was still to come. Yet, had the nation not come together and made all the preparations that it did, the children of Israel would no doubt have crumbled and scattered before the difficult challenges they were soon to face. Israel, along with the promise of Sinai, would have disappeared into the desert sands.
This week the Temple Institute unveiled its latest achievement in its efforts to prepare Israel and the world for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem: Two golden frankincense vessels have been created. The two vessels, known in Hebrew as bezichin, are described in Exodus 25:29, where they are translated in English as "spoons." Their purpose is further described in Leviticus 24:5-7: "And you shall take fine flour and bake it [into] twelve loaves. Each loaf shall be [made from] two tenths [of an ephah of flour]. And you place them in two stacks, six in each stack, upon the pure table, before HaShem. And you shall place pure frankincense alongside each stack, and it shall be a reminder for the bread, a fire offering to HaShem." The bezichin are the vessels into which the frankincense was placed and then set upon the table of the showbread. These two small implements, (each of the new vessels is made from 150 grams of 14 carat gold), play an essential role in the showbread service which took place in the Kodesh Sanctuary of the Holy Temple.
Some may ask, and perhaps should ask, "At this point in history, with the world economy in crisis, and with an ever increasing threat of war looming over the world, and a very real threat of existential annihilation facing the nation of Israel, is this really the time to be occupying ourselves with the fabrication of golden vessels to be used in the Holy Temple?".
The answer is a resounding "Yes!" It is essential today, just as it was in the desert, to keep our hearts and minds focussed on our real purpose as a nation, under G-d, united by Torah, even as, and especially as we face the tremendous challenges that lay ahead. Only by maintaining this unity of purpose and destiny will we weather the approaching storms and arrive, at last, at our "end-goal," a world fit for the G-d of Israel, and united, in His honor, around the Holy Temple. Yes, the two small golden bezichin do make a difference, as do the people whose generous devotion to G-d's word made their manufacture possible. The message of unity of purpose and dedication to the G-d of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the land of Israel transcends the people of Israel. It is meant for all seek the truth and G-d's honor.
G-d has blessed us with the promise of redemption to be attained in the final chapter of our story. We, in turn, must remain steadfast and determined in the roles which He assigned us in this great saga. G-d cannot bring us to our destiny alone. It is incumbent upon ourselves to help make this happen. United we can.
Tune in to the week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the weekly Torah portions of Naso and Beha'alotcha, and shine a light upon the suspected adulteress, America, and the Two State "Solution" Israel is being forced to swallow. Just like the nazarite, scared straight by the prospect, it is high time to say "No" to Obama, "No you can't!" Also, the new golden frankincense vessels for use in the Divine service of the Holy Temple are introduced to the world.