I am Avihu, the second son of Aaron, the High Priest; my elder brother is Nadav. This is our Big Day. Aaron—that is, Dad—is to dedicate the Mishkan, the Holy Sanctuary of the Wilderness, the Place where the One True God is to dwell. We will participate in the Ceremony of Dedication, too.
In 1797, the richest and most ornate of Chasidic rebbes was born: Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin, known as the Rizhiner. Unlike other rebbes, who lived in outright poverty, he loved wealth and to be surrounded by beautiful objects. His Chasidim, who were mostly poor, did their best to satisfy his wants, since the Rizhiner claimed direct descent from King David, and believed that he ought to imitate the lifestyle of his notable ancestor—not in personal behavior, but in his surroundings.
What is significant is that the laws in this parsha, Mishpatim, deal exclusively with civil matters—property rights, indentured servitude, working animals, road construction, etc. How can we find holiness in these mundane matters?
Come in, Stranger! Take a cup of barley beer from me, and sit here by the fire…
Scene: c. 1338 BCE. A Desert campfire, shortly after the Splitting of the Reed Sea. Three men sit around, sharing a flask of honey-mead liquor: one, a Stranger; Elazar, a Hebrew, and son of Moses; Hotep, an Egyptian. Elazar the Hebrew speaks.
Synopsis: Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh—which one? Ramsses II, Thutmose III, perhaps even Hatshepsut, the Woman Pharaoh—the actual identity is not important to the Torah Narrative, which never gives more details than are considered necessary to tell the Story. The Theme is Clash of the Titans, in this case between Adon-i, God of the Israelites, vs. Pharaoh, god of the Egyptians. Here are some of the Actors, both Major and Minor:
Let me tell You the whole story, God of my fathers—though I am certain that You know it all, for You have read my mind about this, and You see all that happens on this earth, from Your abode in the skies, and You laugh at us: You hold us in derision, as my father, Amram, used to tell me, before the Pharaoh’s police came, to arrest him for working for our freedom, and he had to run away, and was never seen again….
Scene: A Receiving Room in Pharaoh Seti I’s Palace, 19th Dynasty, 1291-1278 BCE. The Meeting between the Pharaoh and Jacob. Note that Seti uses the Royal “We” when speaking, since He represents all of Egypt, is Himself a Demigod, and that Native Egyptians did not think highly of Canaanites.
Night on Mount Seir, the tribal portion of Esau, also called Edom (Hebrew, “red”) for his red hair, beard, and freckled complexion. He is chieftain of a large clan, intermingled with Canaanite sub-clans; we will never learn the time or place of his death, or his age at his passing. Even the genealogical lists in Gen. Chap. 36 stress his wives’ side of the Edomite Family, not his own. The Author(s) of Genesis clearly found Esau’s life and destiny to be inconsequential to the remainder of our Genesis Story, which will next focus on Joseph ben Jacob, who will bring his brothers down to Egypt, there to become the Children of Israel.
Father is dead; his chief steward, Eliezer, is also dead. I am alone. Alone as a stone. Just me and this—this wineskin (drinks; the cattle low, moo, meh, and baa) Oh, silence, you—you—woolly fools! Fine company you are, for a master shepherd like me…. Where was I?