Thursday, 9 August 2018

Zevachim 118: Private Altars; the Shechina

The rabbis continue to discuss the public altars that were used until the Temple was built.  Our last Mishna described Rav Dimi's reference to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's understanding about the Shechina. The Shechina is commonly understood as the more 'feminine' aspect of G-d.  It was described as resting on the Jewish people, in Shiloh, where the public altar stood, in Nov and Given, and in the permanent Temple in Jerusalem.

But perhaps those four places are not accurate.  Instead, Rashi says that Nov and Given are actually just one period when private altars were allowed.  The other two periods, Shiloh and the Temple, forbade private altars.  We learn from Steinsaltz about the Maharsha's suggestion that the Tabernacle stood in other places as well - in the desert for 39 years, and in Gilgal for 14 years while the land was being taken and distributed.  In fact, the Shechina might rest only in the land of Israel.  It was only when the aron kodesh, the Holy Ark, was placed within the Tabernacle that the Shechina could rest upon the people.

It is noted that Shiloh was 22 miles north of Jerusalem and 10 miles south of Shechem.  Today, evidence of the Tabernacle have been found in Shiloh.  A synagogue has been built to commemorate this ancient city.

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