Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vayakhel Moshe Et Kol Adat Bnai Yisrael

"Vayakhel Moshe et kol Adat Bnai Yisrael…" (Exodus 35:1)

How do we translate this?  It's not as easy as you might think.

There are two very important political terms here:  vayakhel is related "kahal" and adat refers to the edah.  But just what are the "kahal" of Israel and the "edah" of Israel?  The English translations use various words that miss the Hebrew meaning and sometimes the English versions use the same word to translate both terms!

We need a process.  I propose an etymological approach that moves chronologically through the Torah and also examines root words.

Kahal first occurs in Genesis 28:3 where Isaac blesses Jacob and says "And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a [kahal] of people."  We know that Jacob's sons became the twelve tribes.  In fact, the gathering of the newly federated tribes of Israel at Sinai is thrice called "the day of the kahal."

The root of Kahal is "kol" (voice or "to call").  When we apply this to the Sinaitic gathering we understand that one of the purposes of gathering at the federal level is so that each member of the federation will have a voice.  But it can also mean that HaShem calls us as a collective.

But now we must differentiate this term from edah.

Edah first appears in Exodus 12:3, a verse about the Passover lamb.  In fact, this entire chapter gives regulations for observing the Passover and defines the edah as entity that is collectively charged with observing the Passover--every single member of the edah is bound to observe Passover.

The root of Edah is "ed" (witness).  It is first used in Genesis 31:44 and refers to witnesses of a covenant.

The term ohel mo'ed (tent of assembly) has the root "ed".  This tent was the federal seat where all the representatives met.  This indicates that the edah was a highly organized political entity.

The term aron haedut (ark of the testimony) has the related word "edut", a word that refers to the promulgation of the covenant.

The term eday (my witnesses) is from the same root as edah and is used in Isaiah 43:10-12 where G-d says that Israel is a witness to the fact that He is G-d.

The term edot refers to the mitzvot that testify to G-d's revelation of His love to His people Yisrael.  For example, the Passover reveals G-d's ultimate desire to send Yeshua--THE Passover Lamb.

The book of Joshua (9:15) gives another set of clues as to how the edah functions:

"Then Joshua made a treaty of peace [shalom] with them to let them live, and the leaders [nesi'ai] of the assembly [edah] ratified it by oath [shevua]."

The edah was the entity that was able to ratify covenants by making an oath [shevua].  And it had representatives [nesi'ai].  In Joshua, we see that the nesi'im had to secure the consent of the edah.  This idea of consent, by the way, is also seen in the Jerusalem Council in that James, the nasi of the council could only render a verdict after there was unanimous consent of the council.

So how do we summarize all of this data?  I don't think we can.  I don't think these words can be translated into English.  Have a nice day!  : )

Just kidding.  Even though we can't translate these terms (at least not accurately) there's something we can take away from this word study.

The edah is not functioning today as an edah.  There are kehillot---you've got Reform, Orthodox, Messianic, etc.  But there's no edah right now.  It's a shame.

We need to start rebuilding and unifying the Body so that we can truly be a testimony to the oneness of HaShem.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your work here, Peter. Very good. Very wholesome. It's good midrash and a good derash if you get my meaning. I struggle a lot with language, though I do speak several. Perhaps its BECAUSE I speak several. There are not only things that I can SAY in Korean that I can't in English; there are things that I can THINK in Korean than I can't in English. Hebrew is just as bad. How many versions of "vision" are there, anyway? So I empathize with your "I don't think these words can be translated...Have a nice day!" LOL. Keep up the good work.