Divrei Torah

PARSHAS TERUMA 5779

In this week’s Parsha, we read about the house of G-d - the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – that was the portable Temple that travelled with the Jewish people in the desert. For the artifacts and construction of the Mishkan, the Torah writes a list of items to be donated by the Jewish people. They donated gold, silver, bronze, blue wool, purple wool, red wool, linen, goat’s hair, red ram skins, Tachash skins, acacia wood, oil, spices and special stones. The Mishkan itself was built using the acacia wood as boards for the walls. It was 10 cubits high – approximately 19 feet. On top of the Mishkan were three layers of curtains. However, there was no actual roof for the Mishkan.  At the end of the list, G-d tells the Jewish people, “And make for Me a Mikdash – a holy sanctuary - and I will dwell in them.”

Now, the purpose of the Mishkan is to make a so-to-speak dwelling place for G-d in this world and the Jewish people were commanded to make one tabernacle. Therefore, the Torah should have written “and I will dwell in it” – the Mishkan - singular. Why does the Torah state “I will dwell in them.” How many Tabernacles were they commanded to make?

The Ramban asks, why does the Torah include the specifics of the building of the Mishkan in the book of Shemos, the book of the Torah which centers around the giving of the Torah at Sinai? The Ramban answers that the purpose of the Mishkan is to be a perpetuation of Sinai. At the foot of Mount Sinai, the Jewish people declared before G-d ‘we will do and we will listen’ because at that place and time, G-d dwelled within the soul of every Jew. Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik explained that the Ramban is teaching us that the building of the Mishkan is included in the Book of Shemos because the experience of Sinai was not supposed to be one and done. G-d must always dwell within the souls of the people of Israel. That was what happened at Mount Sinai, and that was the purpose of the Mishkan.

The Torah instructs, “Make for Me a Mikdash – a holy sanctuary”. The words “among them” do not refer to the sanctuary but to the masses of Am Yisrael. Each person needs to make a sanctuary in his or her own heart. We must perpetuate the experience of Sinai and of the Mishkan in our everyday lives by recognizing that G-d is always present.