(Subscribe to R. Michael’s weekly D’var Torah at OneShul’s IndieYeshiva by clicking here)
In this week’s Torah portion, Hashem tells us all about the construction of the Sanctuary, how big each piece of acacia wood needs to be, what kind of cloth to make the tents and curtains out of, even how many boards to use when making the Sanctuary walls! (It’s 48, by the way.)
What we are seeing this week is G-d specifically communicating how to make a space in which to dwell, how to create a holy place to house G-d’s presence among us.
There are a few other things that stand out this week as well.
The people of Israel are called to bring offerings to help build the Sanctuary. Notice though, that they aren’t commanded to bring offerings, but Hashem says “from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity”. We are shown that the only way we can build a space for G-d to dwell among us is if we give freely and generously to make this space complete. It has to happen through our free will. G-d doesn’t just magically appear in our lives, we have to give to make it happen. And not only give, but work! Throughout the portion G-d tells us over and over, very specifically and repeating instructions many times, exactly how to build what is needed for Hashem’s presence to be amidst us. This tells us that not only to we have to give, but we have to work, and work hard. Anything that is worth doing is worth doing right. And G-d tells us so. Does Hashem really need a tent made of goat skins or gold covered acacia wood poles? Probably not. But we are called to give generously of our time, our sweat, and our prized possessions, in order to create a space of holiness in the world.
Another point is the constant demonstration that happens through the textile arts. Hashem says to make numerous multicolored curtains, and to connect them with each other with loops and clasps, so that, as the Torah says, “the Mishkan will be one”. Only through the presence of Hashem can the many become one, echad. This miracle of unity is only available through the power of Hashem’s presence.
Most strikingly, however, is the fact that this sanctuary that is being built is portable. The Israelites were to keep G-d’s presence with them wherever they went. G-d travels with us. G-d has brought us out of Mitzrayim, the narrow places, and reminds us that as long as we create that space, G-d will be with us.