Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
Being A Square!
Published: Saturday, February 6, 2016 07:07:25 PM
Number of views: 1982

The Torah states, "You should make the ALTAR of Shittim wood…..the ALTAR shall be square" (Shemot 27).

There was a slang expression in the U.S.A. in the 1960s for someone who was quiet, reserved, and shy. That person would be referred to as a square. The Mishkan Altar was to be perfectly square shaped. What special significant is there in the fact that the architectural design of the Altar and for that matter, the Mishkan, the Holy Ark, and the Table consisted of rectangular lines?

Rav Hirsch observes that all of nature's products are symbolized by circular spheres, such as the earth and all the planets. Only the human being, whose mind can impose limitations and perimeters on himself, is able to create objects with straight lines and angles. The circle represents the absence of limitation to freedom and autonomy.

This lack of restraint reflects TUMAH, spiritual impurity. The rectangle, or square, on the other hand, symbolizes independent will, dominating and controlling the material world. It represents restraint and self control.

Thus, the square, reflects the concept of TAHARAH, spiritual purity. The Mishkan, as well as the Holy Vessels, represents Kedusha and Taharah-Sanctity and Spiritual Purity.

The Mishkan stands in contrast to nature. It represents the sanctification of human beings to the spiritual ideal. The Sanctuary characterizes a life of moral self control, a life of sanctity. The concept of the Mishkan implies a person's ability to resist his negative impulses which compel him to defer to his natural selfish tendencies.

Rav Hirsch compares the ALTAR to the Tefillin, which are also square. While the Mishkan's ALTAR sanctifies the flesh and blood of the animal offering (Korban), the Tefillin represent the submission of a human being's mind and body to the service of G-D.

Therefore, being called a square in the 1960s, was actually quite a compliment. If only I would have known then, what I know now.     

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