Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Mystical vs. Maimonidean Mishkan

What is the Mishkan (Tabernacle) all about? The answer to this is worlds apart depending on whether you are a mystic or a Maimonidean rationalist.

If you're a mystic, then the intricacies of the Mishkan's architecture were designed from scratch by God Himself and serve to represent and even channel Divine supernatural energies. The significance of its architecture can thus not be overstated.

If you're a Maimonidean rationalist, on the other hand, physical objects cannot have any metaphysical effects, only symbolic significance. Yet the architecture of the Mishkan is still extremely significant - especially in the 21st century. Because it presents a rejoinder to one of the most serious challenges to traditional Judaism - and in doing so, explains itself. The way in which it does so will deeply offend many people of a mystical persuasion, but I ask them to either not read any further or to bear in mind that it's "different strokes for different folks."

There are many contemporary challenges to traditional Jewish belief. One of them is regarding the historicity of the Exodus. There is certainly plenty of ways in which the impossibly high numbers of people described in the Torah can be more reasonably interpreted - see Rabbi Moshe Shamah's Recalling the Covenant and Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman's Ani Maamin for examples. But what about the more basic idea of whether there was any Israelite tribe that left Egypt? Many contemporary academics argue that it never happened and that there were never any Israelites in Egypt. They say that the entire story is a fabrication, a back-projection from a much later and geographically distant place.

The Mishkan is a fascinating rejoinder to this claim. Because its architecture is a precise match to a particular type of Egyptian architecture. 

Pharaoh Rameses II engaged in a number of military campaigns. One of them, the Battle of Qadesh, was waged against the Hittites. Rameses boasted of his victory in various hieroglyphics which depict his military tent. When unscrambled from the heiroglyphics, it looks like this:

As observant readers will immediately notice, it is exactly the same as the Mishkan. It sits in a larger compound of the exact same proportions and in the exact same place. Its overall proportions are identical, and it is divided into two sections of the exact divisions of the Mishkan. Even more amazingly, in Pharaoh's tent, two falcons spread their wings protectively over Pharaoh, exactly like the two cherubim spreading their wings over the Ark of the Covenant. Other details of Mishkan architecture likewise precisely match ancient Egyptian architecture. 

Clearly, the most reasonable conclusion is that this part of the Torah was actually composed in the context of Ancient Egypt, not later Babylonia. And thus there is indeed evidence that there were Israelites in Ancient Egypt. (I'd be curious to know what mystics make of the parallels - probably they believe that Egyptian sorcerers were also able to tap in to Divine secrets.)

But why would the Mishkan be an exact copy of Pharaoh's battle-tent? Can't God come up with an original design?

The answer to this emerges from a consideration of Rambam's approach to ritual commandments in general. As noted earlier, the rationalist approach is that they possess symbolic rather than metaphysical significance. The Mishkan relates to God's symbolically being described as Ish Milchamah, a Man of War. In the ancient world, Pharaoh was seen to by all-powerful. The Mishkan attested that Pharaoh's royal battle-tent itself had been commandeered by the God of Israel.

Mystical and rationalist perspectives are often very far apart. But this is a particularly fascinating instance in which, from a mystical perspective, the rationalist approach is blasphemous, whereas from the rationalist perspective, it is saving one of the basic foundations of Judaism.



83 comments:

  1. I own Ani Maamim, and have read it. I found the book eye-opening and intelligent in many ways. The author and I conversed a bit via email over some questions I had.

    I also own the book Pharaoh by Alexander Hool. This book turns this argument on its head, in the way it dissects the secular archaeology and chronology, which is far more speculative than you science fetishists would ever acknowledge, and collates it and makes sense of it according to our (if it is still "our", since you mock and question it at every opportunity) mesora.

    Rationalist Judaism is like Social Justice. The adjective modifies the noun and leaves it unrecognizable.

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    1. Alexander *Fool. FTFW.
      His books are utterly worthless. If you read Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the name of Science, you will immediately discern that Hool fits in the category of crank, alongside Velikovsky. I will just copypaste a review from someone who knows the subject well (its of his earlier book, but Pharaoh is based on his earlier books:

      I bought the book The Challenge of Jewish History by Alexander Hool, which attempts to explain away the missing 165 or so years of the Persian Period. Initially it looked pretty impressive with lots of carefully researched evidence. But then I got to the crux of the issue (I think it's chapters 7-8; I don't have the book in front of me now) and I decided his theory is so ludicrous that it's not worth my time looking into further.

      Recap of the issue: The Seder Olam puts the Persian Empire as lasting 54 years, after which it was conquered by Alexander the Great. But there's a lot of very strong evidence showing that the Persian Empire lasted an additional 150 years or so.

      The core of Alexander Hool's answer is that Alexander the Great actually conquered the Persians when the Seder Olam says he did (after 54 years), but then he and his successors let the Persians retain control of a large segment of his empire for the next 150 years. The main chunk of missing years are therefore accounted for by saying that those years overlapped with the Hellenistic empires of the Greeks. The remaining missing years are accounted for through a complicated manipulation of the years surrounding Alexander's conquest.

      In order to allow for this theory, Rabbi Hool has to deal with a few obvious questions:

      There is absolutely no record of a large Persian "sub-empire" within the Hellenistic empire.
      There are very detailed Greek histories going back about 150 years before Alexander's conquests that deal extensively with the neighboring Persian Empire. These histories include very detailed accounts of the famous Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian Wars between the Greek city-states, and the conquests of Alexander the Great's father Phillip.
      We have lots of records of astronomical observations dated to specific kings. We can calculate when those observations must have occurred, and they precisely match the conventional chronology
      To account for these and a few other issues, Rabbi Hool proposes a breathtakingly massive and complex conspiracy coordinated by the entire Greek world within about a century after the fall of the proposed Persian "sub-empire". Here are the main elements of that conspiracy:
      1/2

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    2. 2/3
      Every copy of the histories of the Hellenistic period was rounded up and destroyed so as to cover up all evidence of the large Persian sub-empire that in reality existed within the Greek world for 150 years. (We know of at least 46 works of history from that time period that have been lost. Mr. Hool says they were not lost but rounded up and destroyed.)
      A corresponding 150 years of detailed fictitious Greek history was invented and placed prior to Alexander's conquest. Every copy of the old histories (Herodotus, Xenophon, Thucydides, etc.) was rounded up and systematically edited or forged to add in these 150 years. (I'm not sure why they didn't just destroy the histories entirely as they did the other ones.) Note that rounding up all these books required a massive coordinated effort on the part of 3 or 4 rival Greek empires who were otherwise busy trying to kill each other.
      But wait! Someone might uncover our conspiracy if they check the astronomical records! No problem, we'll destroy some of those, and the rest we'll systematically edit to reflect our new chronology. Now even sophisticated astronomer scribes won't catch us!

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    3. 3/3
      Another problem: The Persians used a 19-year leap year cycle (as do Jews nowadays). If a sophisticated astronomer scribe would get hold of some old Persian documents and then carefully calculated the years, he might realize that the leap years mean that the dates in the documents don't match up to our new chronology. To fix this, we carefully manipulate some of the years surrounding the conquest of Alexander in order to bring the total number of added years to 171, which is a multiple of 19, which makes the calendars work out.
      To be extra sure we fool those sophisticated astronomer scribes, we'll also add in a few fictitious eclipses to the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides so that when the scribes calculate when those must have happened it'll match our new chronology.
      But wait! The Egyptians use a different calender system, and if the sophisticated astronomer scribes get hold of some old Egyptian documents and then retro-calculate the dates they'll catch on to our ruse! No problem again, we'll coordinate with the Egyptian authorities to add a one-time addition of 43 days to the calender year (nobody will notice, don't worry), and that'll make the old calendar calculations work out nicely.
      This conspiracy worked so fabulously well that there is absolutely no record of it anywhere, and it fooled all later historians, including those who came shortly afterwards.

      Why, you ask, would the Greeks undertake such a massive conspiracy effort? Rabbi Hool proposes the following possibilities:

      Maybe it was embarrassing to admit that the Persians had retained a large country within the Greek world for 150 years. (Though it's hard to imagine why the Egyptian or Macedonian Greeks would coordinate with their enemies the Syrian Greeks to cover up something that would be an extra embarrassment to the Syrians.)
      Maybe the Greek philosophers had some (presumably Jewish) sources for their knowledge, which would be embarrassing. Adding in a century and a half of fictitious history hides those embarrassing sources.
      Maybe the Greeks felt threatened by the prophecies in Daniel, which imply the impending demise of the Hellenistic empires. In order to subtly undermine those disturbing prophecies, the Greeks invented a century and a half of fictitious history, which contradicts one of Daniel's other prophecies in a different part of Daniel. Now people will stop trusting Daniel and we'll all feel better because of it.
      Who knows? Maybe they had some reason we can't think of.
      Rabbi Hool's primary evidence for all this is (a) the Seder Olam, and (b) some of the pesukim on which the Seder Olam bases its chronology. See my essay for several ways to match the relevant pesukim to the conventional chronology.I can also think of several lines of possible counter-arguments to some of Rabbi Hool's supporting evidence, and I can think of several additional lines of argument that I think would show yet more problems with the theory. However, these arguments would require quite a bit of research on my part, and at present I view Rabbi Hool's proposal as so ludicrous that to do further research seems a waste of time.

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    4. If the review doesn't come out clear, here is a permalink:
      https://www.reddit.com/r/exjew/comments/d5htsq/book_review_the_challenge_of_jewish_history/f0nm9qg/

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    5. Did you write that reply? Did I mention "The Challenge of Jewish History?" "Pharaoh" is a different book that covers a different period of time.

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    6. ash, unless you read the book yourself, and wrote the review yourself, this is not an argument, but is at best, argument adjacent. Further, as I already pointed, this is not even in response to the book I cited.

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    7. @shimshon, i disagree. For the average layman looking into questions of faith, the greatest tool is our Spidey sense. None of us can do real empirical or in depth research. We can read the works that are accessible to us.

      The above review discredits the seriousness of the author. Plain and simple.

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    8. Shimshon, if you read Pharaoh, you will see that he bases parts of it off his first book, which is completely discredited.
      Alexander Hool has also written a booklet where he claims the Chilazon lives in the kineret and produces a black dye - something which is incredibly ridiculous.
      He also has written in the Ami magazine that one can tell where the shechina has flattened mountains in the desert - something that no archeologist agrees with.
      In Pharaoh, he chopmeals the kingdoms into a ridiculous order based on basically zero evidence. It is a ridiculous book which can be filed under "not even wrong". (If one says 1+1=3, that is wrong. But if one says 1+1=banana then that is not even wrong.) Hool has no understanding of evidence, science, or balancing sources - yet he writes his book with an arrogant confindence and says such stupid things as "the only reason why all the professors disagree with me is because they are all biased" (he actually said this in Ami interview - can you say Galileo complex?)
      What is particularly galling is that there is ground to say that our knowledge of ancient Egypt is incomplete and it is likely there are some errors in our dating. It is possible that we are anywhere up to 200 years off. But Hool doesnt stick to such sensical statemnts, rather he rewrites history as if its fanfiction.

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    9. Here is a review of Pharaoh:
      Alexander Hool rejects their findings and dates Ramsses II’s rule to the post-Exodus period, when the Jews had already entered the Holy Land. He explains that Ramsses II lived in the time of the Judges, and may have been named after the city which the enslaved Jews were forced to build. This stands in stark contrast to the aforementioned scholars who argued that, vice versa, the city was named after the king. In light of Hool’s conclusion that Ramesses II lived after the Exodus, we can explain all the similarities between the Kadesh Bas-Reliefs and the Mishkan as stemming from Egyptian attempts to imitate Israelite cultic practices, as opposed to vice versa. This is because if Ramsses lived in the time of Judges, then the construction of the Mishkan obviously predated him.

      One difficulty this reviewer had with Hool's reconstructed chronology concerns the Fourth Dynasty. One of the kings of that dynasty was Khafre/Chephren—which is almost certainly a reference to the above-mentioned Pharaoh Chafra who lived after Josiah’s death. Now, according to Hool’s version of Egyptian chronology, the rule of the Fourth Dynasty happened before the Exodus, yet Pharaoh Chafra lived close to a millennium later near the end of the First Temple period.
      https://rachack.blogspot.com/2020/07/pharaoh-biblical-history-egypt-and.html
      As a friend of the reviewer, he is charitably saying it is bunk.

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    10. Big Mouth, both the review and the one citing it are guilty of the same thing. The author has the credential these people claim to respect, but because he uses it differently than they expect, his work is discredited nonetheless. Even when left unread.

      Still, it is possible to do real, and interesting, research, as long you have have an open and questioning mind (all it takes to have a spidey sense), which the scoffers here lack. I've seen much being done.

      Here is something that isn't research, but an insight that can occur by working on that spidey sense.

      The Gemara in Chagiga 12a discusses tohu and vohu as mentioned in Breishis. It says that contrary to the common translation as some variant of "formless and void," tohu and vohu are not concepts but tangible things or phenomena. The Gemara describes vohu as:

      These are damp stones submerged in the depths, from which water emerges.

      It turns out that vohu, exactly as described, exists, and precisely where we are told they are found.

      The scientists refer to this as Methane Clathrate (and some other terms). The prestidigitation and hand-waving they engage in to explain what they have discovered in prosaic (and rationalist) terms do not detract what they have discovered: the raw substrate that the world was created out of. But if you lack discernment and curiosity, you believe their model of the world rather than ours, and it's just some cool rocks to them.

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    11. I know what "not even wrong" means. Only a gamma would try to explain it.

      One difficulty this reviewer had with Hool's reconstructed chronology concerns the Fourth Dynasty. One of the kings of that dynasty was Khafre/Chephren—which is almost certainly a reference to the above-mentioned Pharaoh Chafra who lived after Josiah’s death.

      TL;DR: I have one objection to his lengthy and copiously documented treatise. The Fourth Dynasty is a sticking point, based on speculative assumption of the identity of the king based on name similarity. Also, conspiracy theory.

      His books are only discredited in your mind. And the minds of your fellow gammas. Meanwhile, the rest of us find it intriguing and even uplifting confirmation that our mesora, handed down from generation to generation, is faithful and can be considered reliable.

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    12. Eh. I know a charedi apologist when i see one.

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    13. Love the archaeologists apologists answers!

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    14. Shimshon: are you the Shimshon who frequented Vox Day's ridiculous blog? I assume you are due to the use of his ridiculous term gammas. Do you still think he is not an antisemite? If you are the same person, I have lost all respect for you.

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    15. The previous comment was by me, Ash.

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    16. Why deny it? Spare me. You never had respect for me. You certainly dismiss me as flippantly and boorishly as you do Alexander Hool.

      Having conversed with him personally by email on many matters over a period of many years, I can't say that I have experienced to be an antisemite.

      He even interviewed Moshe Feiglin in 2017, after the urging of Jewish members of his audience, and not just me. I was a founding member of Zehut and helped put it together.

      Gamma is entirely accurate, and very predictive.

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    17. Walls of text, especially when the words aren't even yours, are the hallmark of the gamma. You could've just put a link in to the Reddit review. I would've read it. But you had to be sure, so you cut and paste and filled in three max-length comments. It would have been bad enough had you written it. What a gamma.

      At least I read the books. Like I have said many times in other ways, you outsource your discernment to others. You have no discernment and no curiosity. You won't even bother to read the material I cite yourself. In fact, you dismiss it without reading it at all. It should be obvious to you why I maintain that responding to "cite?" questions deserves no response. It won't be, to you, but others will nod in agreement, because it is obvious to anyone who is not gamma.

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    18. I almost shudder to ask this but… what in heaven’s name is “gamma”?

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    19. Just curious: a gamma is a term Vox Day made up to refer to people who make ad hominem attacks instead of responding to substance, something Vox Day and his protege Shimshon would never do. Hence they're not gammas, but I am. (Check out r/gammasecretkings for more.)

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    20. The bitter, the angry, the petty. They twist and manipulate and evade and disqualify and project. They are known for their long bloviating screeds, colloquially known as "walls of text," writing at length what could often be summarized just as well in a fraction of the length. Usually they are the gamma's own words. The pathological case is the cut and paste job of someone else's, as exhibited here.

      They are also known for resorting extensively to sarcasm, even when not appropriate or called for.

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    21. Um, just a factual comment from someone who has not read this book: Rameses II is in the Nineteenth Dynasty. The Fourth Dynasty kings, including Pharaoh Khafre and the other builders of the famous pyramids, lived a very long time before even Avraham Avinu.

      On skimming the review, I note that the Alexander Hool book lumps a bunch of Dynasties together - and not ones that are considered consecutive. This seems rather revolutionary. Also probably wrong (but it's not my area of specialization) and therefore enough of a grounds to reject the historical rewriting.

      We should not, in an attempt to debunk someone else's questionable work, come up with questionable statements of our own.

      [true purpose of the post is complete. Additional details for those interested follow]

      The Pharaoh named Chafra in Yirmiyahu has been suggested to be Apries, also named Wahibre Haaibre, who was someone who had to deal with Nevuchadnetzar. This fits the Yirmiyahu timeframe. Dating issues aside (such as the fact that archeologically the Great Pyramid dates to literally 2000 years before Nevuchadnetzar) I doubt that someone battling the biggest conqueror of the age had time (or money) to build one of the longest lasting structures ever (though of course that's just supposition). The Apries info comes from Wikipedia, which I know is not the most reliable of sources, but c'mon!!

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  2. I don't see why a proponent of the mystical approach such as I has to see this as blasphemy. As with the entire torah, we see layers of meaning and interpretation in everything. On the level of pshat the mishkan parallels the battle tent for the reasons you speak of. On deeper levels there are other significances and meaning to the architecture and purpose of the mishkan. God's providence had it (as in all cases) that the various levels would match up.

    Shaul

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  3. I never understood why, according to the Rambam, the Torah remains forever based on culture and problems that existed at the time of the Exodus and are no longer revelant today.

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    1. Who says they're no longer relevant? History may not repeat but it sure does rhyme, and human beings are still very much human beings, much as we like to think we've changed.

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    2. "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

      While mankind may have progressed, the human condition has remained unchanged.

      Do I need to give you examples?

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    3. Ephraim & Nachum, you're point is well made but i Avrahams is too. Many other in the Torah are relegated to symbolism because that particular thing is no longer a struggle.

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    4. Take the point of today's article. Why should the Torah be preserving forever details of a Mishkan based on Egyptian architecture. Also, the Rambam says that things like not removing peyos are because of what religious cults did at that time. How is that relevant when such cults are gone?

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    5. "because of what religious cults did at that time."

      And still do. Tonsures are still practiced today.

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    6. Avraham, I never understood why, according to chassidim (and certain branches of the yeshivish world), the Torah world remains forever based on culture and problems that existed at the time of the Baal Shem Tov and are no longer revelant (sic) today.

      In a cold country such as Poland, in a time without heated motor vehicles or well heated buildings, full length coats and fur hats are necessary and may indicate dignity. In a temperature country such as the US - and in a hot country such as Israel - such garb is not only uncomfortable but is frivolous (streimels are expensive while the local department store sells winter hats for a few dollars!) and elicits ridicule (which in turn sadly leads to true bizayon haTorah).

      And of course there are other things that we do because "that is how it was done in Europe." Judaism is, for better or for worse, a great tower of pancakes, each marked with its own era, joined with the maple syrup of "that's how it's always been done." Some pancakes have disintegrated faster than others (we don't have many Geonic era minhagim - not zero, but not many), but the tower remains. The fact that the core of the religion, the bottom pancake, remains rooted in the era in which the Torah was given, should not be surprising to anyone.

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    7. apologetic nitpick to Ephraim: I thought a tonsure was shaving the middle of the head, like we think of with Friar Tuck from Robin Hood. Is there an issur to not shave the tops of our heads? Or is your point that weird hairstyles exist in religious groups no matter the age, even if they do not line up exactly with our mitzvos?

      (As a kid, seeing Friar Tuck, I just assumed he had a rather centrally powerful male pattern baldness! It was only as I got older and saw pictures of groups of monks affected like that that I realized that people actually cut their hair like that on purpose. It must be uncomfortable in the shower...)

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  4. Great post.

    I would remove the line about "Egyptian sorcerers" - it is too dismissive and turns people off for no good reason. The substance of the post is strong enough without this speculation.

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    1. If you weren't someone that comes here often and a serious reader I would call troll alert for saying the tone. What tone?

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    2. RNS's common response to the "tone issue" is that detractors can't give an example. I pointed one out here.

      Most criticisms of RNS that I've seen are unfounded but this one holds weight i believe. Of the people I've discussed this blog with, huge fans and detractors, most have acknowledged this.

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    3. How ironic. I wrote that line in completely good faith, attempting to present the mystical perspective. Is it not true that the mystical view is that Pharaoh's magicians were indeed able to work real magic? Which means that, like Bilaam, they were "clued in" to supernatural realms. I was not being dismissive at all!

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  5. Also I wouldn't say the numbers of bnei yisrael are "impossibly" high. I would say "extremely" or "incredibly". Yes the numbers are probably impossible without miracles, but the text itself says there were miracles.

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  6. Mustics could say that Ramesses II copied the Mishkan structure for his tent. According to seder olam, the exodus happenned in 1310 BCE (1450 if you add the famous missing persian years) while Ramesses II took power in 1279 BCE.

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    1. How would he have heard about it?

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    2. Nachum,

      He would have heard about it because, as we see, he copied it. Makes sense? Yes, I thought so.

      The entire piece about so many contemporary challenges is vintage Slifkin.

      First, we must know that Torah has so so many problems...then he rushes in with some cockamamie solution, tailored to making his perceived enemies look horrible. What a joke.

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    3. Ezra, you are accusing a random commenter of suggesting something bizarre, and then attributing it to Rabbi Slifkin. Vintage troll critic.

      Anyway, you might not be wrong: the fact that Rameses copied the Mishkan would be the issue, and the how would then need to be answered.

      One answer could be that it was actually prior kings who did the copying, and Rameses' tent is the primary one that archeology knows about. Another answer could be that the now-settled-in-Canaan Israelites started to trade with surrounding lands, and the Mishkan model became something learned. It's not impossible.

      Note, Nachum, that this is not a claim for this timeline, just a few suggestions to answer your question.

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  7. Don't discount that people may simply build what they're used to- or, to be a bit more "frum" about it, Hashem instructs them in ways they're used to, or a combination of both. For example, while both Batei Mikdash kept the basic layout of the Mishkan, the First very much resembles a Phoenician temple at least externally (which isn't surprising, as the Phoenicians had a big hand in building it), along with an additional room that seems to echo Canaanite practice, while the design of Herod's Mikdash is very Roman, again very much not surprising.

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  8. Isn't this simply an extension of the idea that Karbonos was the way Bnai Yisroel needed to have Avodah, as tefillah alone would have been incomprehensible. So too, the vehicle for Avodah, the Mishkan, was provided in a form that was relatable at the time.

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  9. "thus there is indeed evidence that there were Israelites in Ancient Egypt."

    But Quadesh isn't in Egypt, it's in modern day Syria and the Egyptian empire of Ramses II included modern day Israel too. So if this is evidence for anything it is evidence that there were Israelites in Ancient *Israel*!

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  10. There's nothing "heretical" about this proposal. But the actual hieroglyphics in the JPost article only have the most superficial resemblance to the Mishkan. I don't see the "exact same proportions", except in the picture Professor Berman made. Where did he get it from? Hinging the accuracy of your most important historical event on some very superficial resemblances between two unrelated things doesn't seem so rational.

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  11. Rationalists don't need such forced comparisons. It's easy enough for them to say the whole Exodus story is a myth, the same way they say it for Genesis. The various Bible authors may have known it's a myth, but decided that the glorious Exodus story would be more readily accepted by the unwashed masses than their real, unglamorous history. It was a "necessary truth", as rationalists are fond of saying.

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    1. That's too black and white. There are many shades of grey.
      Why not accept that that there was some sort of exodus story, but not necessarily the way it was recorded in the Torah, but that Hashem in his wisdom recorded it the way he did for a reason.
      We are supposed to be smart enough to figure that out and not take the Torah in a (juvenile) strictly literal way.

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    2. @not a fan, you can accept or not accept whatever you want. I have a very convincing mesorah that there was an Exodus that happened the way it's told over in the Torah. If you don't have such a mesorah, you can of course believe whatever you want. Clearly rationalists either never had that mesorah, or they forgot it, or they refuse to accept it because they find other stuff more convincing.

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    3. HGLP - "necessary truth" or "necessary beliefs" doesn't mean the whole Torah is a lie. Rather, not everything the Torah says is true in the sense that the Torah was working with the worldview of the masses. For example, when the Torah says that G-d becomes angry, this is a "necessary belief" because G-d does not become angry. G-d has no human emotion. It is "necessary" because, while untrue, it helps keep the masses in check.

      This does not mean the entire Exodus story did not take place. Same with the Garden of Eden story. Although the Garden of Eden story is a parable, there probably was no literal Adam and Eve and talking snake, the idea of the story is true. G-d created the universe (albeit, not in the order as the narrative has it and not in six days).

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    4. Shmuel, that's my point. Without a mesora for the Exodus, there's really no reason to accept it all. The Torah is full of things that you would never accept, like Creation, miracles etc. Why would you accept there was an Exodus? It's a pretty crazy story even without miracles, and there is almost 0 evidence for it, and plenty of evidence against. Most historians don't accept it. At best they would concede that there was some Egyptian influence on the Hebrews in Canaan.

      Since rationalist don't have a mesora for the Exodus, there is no reason for them accept the Exodus at all. NO REASON. Except maybe they don't want to feel dumb at the Seder, so they have to justify it somehow. With the type of extremely weak justifications Berman puts forward.

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  12. Seriously recommend reading Israel Knohl's book איך נולד התנ"ך. Of much value for Orhthodox readers who want to understand both (a) what happened historically and (b) what the Torah's educational purpose was in telling the story the way it does.
    In it he describes a historically viable story that could well be the basis for our סיפור יציאת מצרים
    Plus you get a great overview of how the תנ"ך might have come to be.
    One of the greatest books I have ever read.

    https://www.kinbooks.co.il/aik-nvld-htn-k.html?gclid=Cj0KCQiA9OiPBhCOARIsAI0y71CfAoB33g0kTsS955Ed2JkfIaM1CkdOMcrOKdTBMtJdk-yTDi6qdy4aAm-PEALw_wcB

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  13. and, more directly related to the Mishkan (or Bet HaMikdash, at least) read his משכן דממה for more parrallels and distinguishing features viz a vis other similar middle eastern structures

    https://www.magnespress.co.il/book/%D7%9E%D7%A7%D7%93%D7%A9_%D7%94%D7%93%D7%9E%D7%9E%D7%94-3343

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  14. And finally, the description of the Mishkan in the Torah does not prove that Am Yisrael were in Egypt. It just shows that whenever the Torah was written the people who wrote it had a sense of what Egyptian places of prayer looked like.

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    1. And they got that sense how?

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    2. Why do you assume it's so hard to come by that knowledge?

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  15. Wait a moment, is it certain that no other sanctuaries had a main hall and a special inner chamber with the whole surrounded by a fence? Sounds pretty basic.

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    1. Bingo. There's nothing "exact" or "precise" about this comparison. It's just a very basic, superficial resemblance between central structures surrounded by a fence.

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    2. It sounds basic because you're used to it. Greek Temples didn't look like that. Canaanite temples had *three* rooms- and, not coincidentally, so did Shlomo's Mikdash.

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    3. It's not just the number of rooms. It's also the exact proportions and location of each room, the keruvim on the aron, and more. Clearly you didn't read Berman's book, but could you at least try reading the whole article?

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    4. I read the article in Jpost, and I looked at the actual Egyptian image displayed in the article. It doesn't look like the proportions of the Mishkan at all. It doesn't match Berman's drawing at all. Berman says "The proportions of Ramesses’ throne tent, surrounded by his army on four sides, exactly match those of God’s Tabernacle sanctuary" but based on that image, that's just not the case. Maybe there's a different image you're looking at that does match? Or maybe elsewhere he explains how he got that, maybe in his book? It's not in the article.

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  16. I was at the Metropolitan Museum in New York last November. On display in the massive ancient Egypt was a large temple. I marveled at the temple architecture that is similar to that of the mishkan/Mikdash. I took a picture but I don't know how to share it here.

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  17. I think the most reasonable approach is that God embeds eternal concepts in forms that made sense at the time (although not all our ritual objects resemble those from other cultures). The Ramban more or less says this in explaining the kohen's garments. The Ramban even says that those garments can, at he same time, somehow have mystical effects as well.

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  18. Not only is the Mishkan (Tabernacle) a copy of Egyptian military tens, the temples were copies of ancient Babylonian temples and the ark of G-d is a copy of Egyptian arks. Yes, the Egyptians had arks. See https://booksnthoughts.com/the-cherubim-was-copied-from-the-egyptians/

    PS Rabbi Asher meza told me over the phone that Cherubim were birds.

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    1. Rabbi Asher meza is a rabbi located in Florida. You can check him out here: https://www.youtube.com/c/rabbiashermeza

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    2. And… what does he have to do with the k’ruvim?

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  19. From a mystical perspective it actually makes perfect sense. Indeed there exists no fundamental dichotomy between the Maimonidean approach and the Kabbalah of the Arizal, provided one is willing to embrace a broad, multi-dimensional matrix in wherein they are both elements rather than assuming that each is comprehensively exclusive.

    In this matrix the two approaches are located in distinct yet covalent sets of coordinates. Physics and biology are replete with examples of such. These may serve as a model for matters metaphysical.

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    1. That's all good and well - and certainly appealing on many 'levels' - but many Jews don't see things that way and regardless, there is no real objective standard of interpretation to 'matters metaphysical'. I suppose that's the beautiful fluidity of Judaism and one can fill it in as they see fit. Personally, after 50 years, the effort to filter these concepts through metaphysical / mystical lenses is too much and ultimately futile. A metaphysical carrot dangled in front of a donkey in perpetuity (which is how one person described Kabbalah to me once).

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    2. "there is no real objective standard of interpretation to 'matters metaphysical"
      I'm not sure what you mean by "objective" in this context but there is certainly a coherent and logical system that dovetails with multiple layers of understanding of the Torah as well as the realm of human experience.

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    3. Rabbi Yaffe - Why didn't the Torah explain it in metaphysical terms?

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    4. Rabbi Yaffe, it really drives me nuts when kabbalist-types try to present kabbalistic ideas as 'coherent and logical'. They may well be internally coherent and logical, but that's about all you can say about them. Kabbala is made up, has no empirical basis, nor any serious Torah basis. It's a completely different outlook to that exhibited by the Tannaim and Amoraim. It's made up out of thin air and only coherent if you imagine a dream world of sefirot, angels and aspects of G-d.

      Coherent and Logical are the bare minimum you could expect from any system. The next thing a system needs, which kabbala lacks, is a relationship to reality, an empirical basis.

      Please, stick to being honest. It's a mystical system, which means it's just loopy.

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  20. Isn't it possible that Hashem designed the Mishkan so that it would be a structure that was familiar to the Israelites. Just as we can go to a strange town and recognize the buildings as serving a particular purpose, so the Israelites could see the Mishkan and say "Hey, that's Hashem's command post".

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  21. I don't understand why do you need evil Ramesses II here.
    The Mishkan has classic structure of an apartment: a court around the facility, a salon (living room) with some most essential accessories (a table, a lamp, a fume set) and a bedroom.
    Therefore there is no wonder that a lot of facilities have similar structure: this is the underlying intention.
    The Mishkan is purposed to demonstrate than someone is certainly present yet is invisible and unrepresentable.
    The Mishkan is hereby purposed to be a response to the golden calf and such the kind of problems.
    (That's not my idea, I saw it in one of classic commentators but unfortunately forgot which one.)

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    1. As has been pointed out, interestingly, a bed is the one thing found in other temples that is missing.

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  22. This might be a possible explanation for the mishkan: http://www.teachinghearts.org/dre09sciencenotes.html
    Ash

    (Ps this is a joke, but probably better than Hool's theory.)

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  23. It's very easy to find a picture of the battle tent. One simply needs to google it.

    https://mosaicmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Kadesh_Camp_600dpi_Small.jpg

    Looking at the image, one can see somewhat of a resemblance to the Mshkan. I am however a little leery of the "interpreted diagram" presented. It suggests that someone didn't think the objective truth (i.e. the original image) wasn't convincing enough and that certain lines needed to be emphasized in order to convince us.

    Not happy about this.

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    1. Marvin, thank you for finding this. I probably didn't put in the right google term. Now I do see the resemblance a bit more, including some of the proportions. That said, it's still a pretty weak resemblance. There's that random rectangle around what's supposed to be the Ohel. And it's missing the entire wall on the right. And of course the entrance of the left is much smaller (but that was already noted in the "interpretive diagram"). And then there's the small issue of other pictures of the tent with completely different proportions (see the bottom image in the link).

      http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/kadesh.htm

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    2. Looking at it again, the proportions in your picture don't match Bermans "interpreted diagram" very much. Definitely not "precisely". In Berman's "interpreted diagram" as well as the Mishkan, the proportions of length of the Ohel to half of the length of the Chatzer is 30/50=3/5. In the Mosaic Magazine picture, if you measure the proportion of the tent to the entire left part of the enclosure starting from the tent until the left wall, it is more like 2/5. If you measure using the entire central rectangle (and not just the inner rectangle with two chambers), the proportions will be like .48, and it will mess you up on the other sides (as well as the problem of that rectangle not looking like the Ohel). You can measure this with Microsoft Paint.

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  24. Is there any reputable, detailed source for this Rameses military tent claim? I find it a little funny that I never heard of this before

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  25. The Torah is full of pagan parallels including Mythology and Rituals. It was a major stumbling block for me. I wrote about apologetic responses and find them quite unconvincing.

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