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    A mobile Mishkan – B’midbar

    Mobile phones, mobile PCs, mobile homes, mobile libraries, mobile shops – ubiquitous features of the modern landscape.

    Depiction of the Mishkan, Foster Bible Pictures, 1897

    Depiction of the Mishkan, Foster Bible Pictures, 1897

    In the wilderness the Children of Israel had a mobile Mishkan, a sanctuary that could be taken apart when they moved and re-erected wherever they encamped.

    Jewish history utilised the concept over and over again. Mobility and migration punctuated the centuries of our people’s experience. Communities struck roots but after a while were forced back on the move.

    When they moved they often had to leave precious things behind, even magnificent synagogues. The one thing they never abandoned was their Sifrei Torah.

    I actually made the personal acquaintance of one of those Torah scrolls. A Jewish family that had to leave Germany in a hurry rescued a little Torah from their local synagogue and it went with them on their vicissitudes. They ended up in Australia, and so did their scroll.

    By then it was no longer so clear and readable, but it had survived, as they had, and its frayed cloth cover came with it.

    When the Maritime Museum organised a Migration exhibition the scroll was placed on display as part of the migration that brought so much change to Australian society. I even have a picture somewhere of me holding up the opened Torah and explaining its story to the audience.

    That is part of the “Mobile Mishkan” concept in Jewish life. One of the fears I have is that when modern Jews move, not necessarily for reasons of persecution but for economic advantage, they might forget to take their tradition with them…

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