THE SPIRIT COMES THROUGH THE DETAILS
1. And HaShem spoke unto Moses, saying:
2. 'Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for
Me an offering; of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering.
3. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them: gold, and silver, and brass;
4. and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair;
5. and rams' skins dyed red, and sealskins, and acacia-wood;
6. oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense;
7. onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate.
8. And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
9. According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it...
1. God is very present in the lives of the Israelites at this moment in the Biblical text. In previous weeks, God has brought them out of slavery, split the sea, drowned the Egyptians, given the Israelites food, and shown his face on Mt. Sinai. Why then are the Israelites commanded to build a sanctuary to manifest God's presence in their lives?
2. Both here and further in the parasha, God dictates every element in the construction of the tabernacle "God's not-so-voluntary wish list." Why is the detail so important? Do these demands show a need on the part of God? Shouldn't the Israelites have the right to determine the nature of their gifts to God?
3. What is your reaction to the grandeur and materialism of the sanctuary? What is the message conveyed? What is the importance, in your mind, of spending money to beautify our modern-day sanctuaries (synagogues)? How else do we take physical action to manifest God's presence in our lives?
4. Is God equally present everywhere, or is God more present in specific places (i.e., the tabernacle, synagogues, the land of Israel, etc.)?
The blueprints for building the tabernacle come right after a parasha, Mishpatim, which is replete with legal and ethical prescriptions for the Israelites. These two sections represent a stark diversion in the lives of the Israelites, who have just experienced event after event of great spiritual and practical import. After experiencing a wild ride on the wings of eagles, the Israelites get down to the details of learning how to bring God into their lives on a day-to-day basis. Not every day in their lives, and certainly in our lives, will God make God's presence known in grand ways. The Israelites, and we as their successors, need to do our own work, through the disciplined following of a code of ethics, law and ritual, to bring our lives closer to God. The covenant between us and God is not a one-way street. Much of the rest of the Five Books of Moses gave the Israelites, and gives us today, a start along this spiritual journey.
Prepared by Rabbi Mark Robbins, Jewish Chaplain, Georgetown University.