(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 12:36:55 -0500
From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel)
Subject: Re: Mishkan as Human Body

A quick answer to Irene (Bais Medrash, Vol 1 Number 63)who asks whether
>  >  anyone knows of a respected written source that might confirm, defend or
contradict the thoery of mishkan as body>  >

Try Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's beautiful 100 page essay: Groundlines For
a Jewish Symbolism reprinted in Rav Hirsch's collected writings published
by Feldheim.

Let me give a very brief summary of this beautiful essay:

QUESTION 1:Must we ever dare to interpret Biblical commandments
symbolically AnSWER: Yes. There are 3 cases

1a) The torah EXPLICITLY tells me the commandment is symbolic. There are 4
such commandments: Shabbath, Brith, Tefillin, Pesach Mitzrayim

1b) The torah explicitly says do commandment X in order to remember Y. Thus
e.g. Tzitizth is performed to symbolically remind me of all the commandments

1c) Although there is nothing explicit nevertheless we have 1c1)
commandments dealing with DEEP HUMAN EMOTIONS 1c2) the commandments involve
objects that are clearly symbolic

So Rav Hirsch says all korbonoth must be interpreted symbolically since
they deal with deep human emotions (guilt, birth etc) and use objects (like
blood) which are clearly symbolic in the Bible.

QUESTION 2: Given that a commandment is symbolic HOW should we interpret
it? Can we interpret it as we please? Are there rules?

Yes there are rules. The basic rule is interpret the symbol the way the
Bible herself interprets it.

SIMPLE EXAMPLE: I would have thought that BIRD symbolizes SOARING FREEDOM.
But the rule states that we must ask what the Bible thinks. Rav Hirsch
shows in his commentary that the BIRD always symbolizes poverty. Legally,
bird sacrifices are used by poor people.

With this background I would encourage Irene and everyone to read Rav
Hirsch's beautiful commentary on Ex chap 25...Unfortunately the answer to
Irene's question is no---the mishcan does not symbolize the human body. But
the exposition is magnificent and the ideas deep.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA
Rhendel @ mcs drexel edu