Last Friday night after services someone asked me if I would speak about the truckers protest in Canada for my Shabbat talk the following day. Well that’s a challenge. How would I work that topic into the not so action-packed parsha detailing the clothes worn by Aaron the High Priest? Protesting Canadian Truckers and the Kohen Gadol – hmmm, there’s a natural fit.
But when I considered that the priestly service was all part of the Mishkan/Tabernacle that we continue to read about at the beginning of this week’s parsha as well, and after reading a piece by the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, it all came together.
We tend to think of the Mishkan as a temporary structure as it was erected during the time the Israelites were in the Sinai desert and it accompanied them on their travels before going into Canaan/Israel. But it really wasn’t so temporary because in addition to these 40 years it was situated in Shiloh for 369 years as well as in Nov and Givon for another 57 years. 466 years in total until the Beit HaMikdash/Temple of Solomon was built. That’s a good chunk of time.
The period of King Solomon was a high point in Jewish history and indeed if the course of Jewish history were a graph, the apex of the trajectory would be during his reign. Israel was at peace, Solomon had forged alignments with the surrounding neighbours, the economy was humming and its crown jewel, the Beit HaMikdash Temple was built. But below this hunky dory façade lay a fault line that would not come to the fore until Solomon passed away and his son, Rechavam took over.
The Tanach narrates that Solomon conscripted hundreds of thousands of labourers doing back-breaking work to build the Temple. Let’s face it, they didn’t have the large construction machinery in those days like today. Some even had to travel to Lebanon, far from home, to cut and bring back the beautiful Cedars of Lebanon wood.
All this took its toll on the populace and when Solomon died, his advisors told the new king to ease this tax and lighten the load and demands on the people. But Rechavam was not as wise as his father and instead listened to his young advisors and yes-men who influenced him to proclaim that he would actually increase their tax and labour for the government. “My father made your yoke heavy, I am going to add to your burden!” Nice.
Well, needless to say, this did not go over well and Rechavam quickly found himself with an approval rating that totally tanked. To the point where his nemesis, Yeravam was able to lead a revolt and create a secession that split the country and created two distinct nations: Israel to the north and Yehuda in the south. So how did that work out for you, Rechavam?
But events like these do not happen in a vacuum and in truth when did this hemorrhage begin? Back in the days of Solomon when much was being demanded from the people. But during Solomon’s reign they didn’t complain because they knew it was for a good cause that served the nation. That plus the fact that I am sure Solomon’s charisma, played a role.
But once Solomon died and the major project of the Temple was built, the people no longer had the stomach and will to carry on that sacrifice. So when his son, the new leader arose and proclaimed that not only will it continue but it will be more onerous – and in the minds and hearts of the people it’s clear that these demands were no longer necessary – then there is going to be only one natural outcome. The population will rebel. Sound familiar?
The Canadian Trucker led rebellion was not about the one edict of Prime Minister Trudeau that truckers needed to show proof of vaccination before they would be allowed back into the country. Ninety percent of these truckers who ferry materials back and forth across the most traded border in the world are vaccinated. No, it was a long time coming. It was the buildup of so many restrictions, changing laws and whittling away of freedoms.
No leader or government can keep taxing the people, limiting them with restrictions, telling them they cannot go to the gym and to the mall and out to eat and to school and to a hockey game or visit their relatives and enjoy holidays and life-cycle events endlessly without any end in sight. They may get away with it for weeks, or months or even years, so long as the people feel that it is for the greater good.
But when people see that there is no longer the need to sacrifice, and especially when they see their neighbours to the south doing all these things and not suffering health-related consequences, then the leaders have lost the thread. They are no longer working for the good of their nation but for the good of their power. And when that happens, people finally snap. They declare, “Enough! We’re not doing this anymore!” They declare it with their mouth and sometimes they declare it with their trucks.
This is what happened in Israel thousands of years ago and what is happening in Canada and other nations across the globe. Leaders like Rechavam and Trudeau like to dismiss those who oppose them by characterizing them as a fringe minority with unacceptable views. The problem is they forget to leave their echo chamber of nodding-head advisors and venture out to hear what the average person in the street thinks and feels. And because they don’t do that, it’s only a matter of time before the people rise up and revolt.
Trudeaus come and go. Rechavams come and go. Even the Temples come and go. But the quest and love for Freedom in the beating heart of every human being never dies.
There’s freedom in the headlights
And Hank comin’ out the dash
Left arm out the window
And straight pipes out the back
There’s a good ole boy like me out there
Just proud to be drivin’ around
Somewhere in a truck right now