Friday, August 25, 2006


In this week's parsha, there is a prohibition against the building of a matzeiva, a monolith, to serve HaShem, b/c He hates it. Most of the commentators say that the reason for this is because the idolatrous nations used to use this type of device to worship their idols. There is much written about why there is not a similar prohibition against using a mizbei'ach constructed of many stones (Did the idolatrous nations not use it? Was a matzeivah used for a different purpose than a mizbei'ach? Etc.) and why a matzeivah used to be an acceptable mode of serving HaShem (such as in the case of Yaakov at Beit-El and in the case of Moshe at Har Sinai (Shmos 24:4)).

I recall hearing some years back, but forget the source, a homiletical explanation of the difference between a mizbei'ach and a matzeivah. A matzeivah, which is constructed of many stones, symbolizes stagnancy and unchangingness. A matzeivah can never be added to and can never be repaired, for it is always made of only one stone. A mizbei'ach, on the other hand, is made up of many smaller subunits, which allows it to grow in size over time and to be repaired. For this reason, it is much more representative of our task in this world, in that we must never be satisfied with our state at any given time, but rather must always strive for further growth and leave ourselves open for the correction of deficiencies that we might find in ourselves.



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