Torah from Dixie leftbar.gif [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []    [top_xxx.jpg]


by Yoel Spotts    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"They shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8).



"They shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8).

This one verse presents the theme that is to dominate four of the next five Torah portions - Terumah, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel, and Pekudei - the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). That the Torah, which in general strives for brevity whenever possible, should dedicate so much time and space to the construction of the Mishkan, certainly indicates the great significance attributed to this holy structure. Although the Torah, in the above mentioned verse, does provide a reasonable rationale for the Mishkan - so that Hashem may dwell in the Jewish people's presence - one seems to get a sense that there is more to the story. After all, even the great forefathers are not apportioned so much air time.

In seeking to find the deeper meaning behind the Mishkan, the Ramban, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, draws several parallels between the presence of the shechina (Divine presence) in the Mishkan and the revelation at Mt. Sinai. The similarities are not merely superficial, continues the Ramban, for the Mishkan was, in fact, built in order to replicate the circumstances at Mt. Sinai. The glory of Hashem which appeared to the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai at the time of the giving of the Torah, would now be apparent, albeit in a cloaked and concealed form, to the Jews in the Mishkan. Thus, the Ramban provides us with the first clue toward understanding the purpose of the Mishkan. However, since the Mishkan is directly related to the revelation at Mt. Sinai, we must now focus our attention on that seminal event.

While it would seem obvious that the objective of Mt. Sinai was to give the Jews the Torah, we find an additional and more profound theme which underlies the revelation. Immediately preceding the giving of the Torah, Hashem announces to the Children of Israel "You shall be to me the most beloved treasure of all peoples. . .a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). Thus, with the giving of the Torah, Hashem intended to forge the Jewish people into nationhood. While before the Jews existed as merely a collection of individuals, Mt. Sinai created an entity known as Klal Yisrael, the community of Israel. From here on in, the Jewish people are to function as one, and it is in this state that they are to serve Hashem.

Similarly, we may conclude based upon the Ramban's correlation that the Mishkan served the same purpose: Hashem's presence which rested there would continuously strengthen the bonds that hold the Jewish people together. Indeed, the Mishkan was situated in the center of the encampment, to serve as the nucleus of the Jewish nation. Later, the Beit Hamikdash (Temple), the successor to the Mishkan in the land of Israel, became the center of attention for the Jewish people; three times a year, all would flock there and gather together in Hashem's presence to renew their ties with each other. In this way the Jewish people stayed, more or less, one cohesive unit.

For one reason or another, we today have lost, to a great extent, that ability to view ourselves not simply as individuals who happen to be Jews, but part of a whole entity known as Klal Yisrael. Perhaps it is due to the fact that it has been so long since we had the Temple to act as this uniting force. Perhaps it may also be attributed to the influence of the Western world which places the individual above all else, degrading the value of the community in the process. Whatever the cause, we Jews have become so fragmented to the point that we disassociate ourselves with other Jews who are not exactly like us, pretending that they do not belong to the same community as we. It is essential that we keep in mind that the Jewish nation as a whole is similar to a machine composed of many different components. Each Jewish individual represents a single part of that machine. When each component executes his given task and cooperates with the other components, the results are extraordinary. However, when each part chooses to act according to his own wishes and not in consonance with everyone else, the results are disastrous. Hopefully, the message of the Mishkan will remind us of our responsibility to keep the Jewish people running like a well-oiled machine.


Yoel Spotts, a native Atlantan and graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore.

You are invited to read more Parshat Terumah articles.

Would you recommend this article to a friend? Let us know by sending an e-mail to

butombar.gif [] [] [] []