Torah This Week
Welcome to Torah This Week, where you will find thoughts and reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on the Torah portion of the week.
(Exodus 25:1 - 27:19)
This parsha consists of a lengthy set of instructions for the building of the mishkan, the tabernacle which the Israelites carried with them in the desert. Every detail of the construction is set out in precise terms. The purpose of the project, given in Exodus 25:8, "God said to Moses, 'They (the Israelites) shall build Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them'," is to create a holy, designated place to facilitate God's presence.
The wording of the verse raises a question: Why does it say "among them," i.e., among the people, instead of "in it," i.e., in the sanctuary? Isn't the mishkan intended to be God's dwelling?
The answer may be found earlier in the parsha (Exodus 25:2), when God commands Moses "to take My contribution from every person whose heart prompts him/her." In other words, except for the silver, which was collected as a tax from all the people, all the precious materials for the mishkan were collected on a voluntary basis. This was not tzedakah in the classical Jewish sense of an obligation. Instead, these were contributions made in accordance with the depth of each individual's caring. Yet the quantity of each material was precisely specified. Thus the entire project was a test: Would the voluntary commitment of all the Israelites supply enough to create the mishkan? If so, it would indicate to God that this people was a worthy dwelling-place for the Divine Presence. But, if the "campaign" did not meet its goal, this would indicate that the people did not care deeply enough about God to warrant God's residence among them. Thus, the building of the mishkan was a test through which God would know whether this people was a covenantal partner sufficiently loving to warrant an eternal "live-in" relationship.
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