acacia wood standing

Atzei shitim omdim  lalalalala Atzei shitim omdim

That means it’s a song, but it’s also a sentence full of curiosity.

Exodus Chapter 26

טו וְעָשִׂיתָ אֶת-הַקְּרָשִׁים, לַמִּשְׁכָּן, עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים, עֹמְדִים 15 And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle of acacia-wood, standing up.

The standing is unusual. What does that mean?  There are many attempts of understanding this. Here are a few, but I’m going to focus on this one here:

8– OMDIM means from PREPARED trees. Medrash Tanchuma #9 on our parsha says that Yaakov planted acacia trees in Egypt and told his descendants that they should be harvested and taken along upon departure for use in the Mishkon. This has a mathematical allusion. “Hakroshim laMishkon” is the same as “Yaakov Ovinu nota lo’hem arozim b’Mitzrayim.” Another indication to this is the word “Hakroshim,” with a definitive letter Hei, the specific beams that Yaakov told them should come from the trees he planted. (Kli Yokor)

Now, there are many problems with this. I understand that it’s comforting to think that Yaakov Avinu had in mind that we would be getting out of Mitzrayim with the goal of building the Mishkan and thus need the trees, but the reality is clear to anyone who has ever visited the “wilderness”–the acacia trees are all over the place.  You don’t need to plant, cut, and especially shlepp the trees (especially since remember how they left in a hurry without having time to bake their bread, but they had time to shlepp the wood?) when you’ve got them all around you.  The midbar is not a desert in the Sahara desert model, full of sand and no life.

Here is one of my favorite renditions of the trees from the artist Ron Gang:

And here’s a photo of an acacia tree in the Sinai by the photographer Morris Alkalay.

Approaching Storm - Sinai Desert, North Sinai

If you look at the wood itself and how it’s used for wood-working, then this explanation of Omdim becomes very difficult:

5) Rashi and Sforno on our verse say that OMDIM teaches us that the beams should not be placed horizontally one on top of the other to create walls, but rather, they should be placed vertically, OMDIM.

This really started when I took my salad bowl down to be used on Shabbat. I noticed the beautiful design of the swirls and I realized something was off with this standing business. Here’s my bowl, a gift from Crate & Barrel (no, someone gave me the bowl, not C&B).


But maybe that is exactly the reason. The beauty of the wood is that it is has stunning patterns that swirl and change with every tree. The beauty is that it is not regular and not regulatable. So is that why this is the point, that it is against its own nature to be used in this way?


2 responses

  1. Thank you for a spark to a sermon on the verse, which is bowdlerized into a song about olive trees, so as to avoid a scatological double-entendre.

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