Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Parshat Teruma

A Home for God

God told Moshe to seek donations from the children of Israel so that: "They shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them" (Shemot 25:8). God then proceeds to describe its design and its furniture.

When we examine description of the Mishkan, we are surprised that the home God demands for Himself was quite similar to a regular human home, only a little more grander.

To begin with, it was to have an Aron (cupboard), Shulchan (table), Menorah (lighting), mizbeach (furnace), and fire pans (cooking utensils). Furthermore, certain foods to be regularly brought to the Mishkan, whether, they were animal sacrifices, baked goods such as the showbread and matzot, wine and even spices.

Of course, as we are talking about God, all the furniture and fittings had to be made of the finest materials such as gold, accacia wood, linen etc. All the animals had to be perfect and unblemished and the flour had to be the finest quality available.

Moreover, all the attendents, had to wear special uniforms and had ritualised protocols as to where they could be and how to behave, just as any human king would have.

When Israel finally settles in the promised land and establishes a rich and mighty kingdom, David bemoans the fact that God's home was still portable: "'See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within curtains" (II Shmuel 7:2) and discusses building Him a palace (aka Temple). God declines the invitation at this juncture.

What's going on here? Was God homeless that He needed somewhere to live? Is He homeless now that the Temple has been destroyed.

If we look closely at the original passuk we quoted, we see that is not the case.

"They shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them" (Shemot 25:8). God does not say build Me a sanctuary that I will dwell "in it", but "among them". The purpose of the Mishkan is not for God's benefit but for Israel's. It is not a medium for God to live in, but a medium that enables us to get close to God.

It is impossible to see God for "no man can see Me and live" (ibid 33:20). Nevertheless, with relevant precautions, we can approach God. Israel could not climb Mount Sinai when God gave the Torah lest: "the Lord wreak destruction upon them" (ibid 19:22), but from behind the boundary they could be close to Him. The Mishkan was to act in the same manner. God would descend onto the Mishkan in a cloud (see 40:34) enabling His presence to exist among the people.

Without the Mishkan and Bet HaMikdash, it is not God who suffers the lack of an abode, but us who suffer the absence of His presence.

With the Mishkan, Israel had a place to go to where they could be close to God's presence


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