In this week’s double portion, we conclude the book of Exodus, completing the construction of the mishkan (the Israelites’ portable sanctuary). The last two parshiyot described the plans and design for the mishkan, and Vayakhel-Pekudei tells the story of the actual construction of God’s dwelling place in the desert. While it may seem, at first glance, that the Israelites completed the mishkan, one verse suggests otherwise. Exodus 36:7 reads, “The work was sufficient for them for all they were to do, and more.” The chasidic teacher, Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev (1740-1809), asks a question about the contradiction in the verse. If it was “sufficient,” what is the “more?”
He goes on to teach that “sufficient” refers to the fact that they set limits on their work. While complete for divine service and presence, there was still room for “more,” work on the mishkan --future generations would keep building this sacred container. Because our own human capacity is limited, we leave space for future generations to contribute to this sacred work and thus contribute to the holiness of the mishkan.
In our work, we are contributing to this sacred building of the mishkan and, like our ancestors, we also have limits. Fortunately, each generation of college students takes up this work, building on the previous generations, extended further to their own limit, their own moment of “sufficient,” and still leaving plenty of space for “more.”
Rabbi Alex Weissman, Senior Jewish Educator, Brown RISD Hillel