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Parsha Terumah Exodus 25:1-27:19

Parsha Terumah Exodus 25:1-27:19

In this weeks Portion we read about the construction of the Mishkan—the Tabernacle. Much of the Torah is dedicated to the construction, implementation and functioning of the Tabernacle and its Service. The construction of the Tabernacle is such a prevalent topic dealt with in the Torah, that it is impossible to turn a blind eye and ignore it.
The amount of detail God gives in the Torah concerning the Tabernacle, tells us, that this building is one of the most important topics to be studied in the Bible. Not Creation, not the Flood, not the Exodus from Egypt. The building of the Mishkan—the Tabernacle, is one of the most intricately described processes that covers detailed chapter after chapter of information concerning this building project, the order of ceremony, the protocol and dress of the Kohanim—the Priests, and much, much more! 
 
The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Solomon Zalman. 1720-1797) compared the creation of the world to the building of the Tabernacle. He stated, “The Holy Temple – God’s Sanctuary – was a microcosmic model of the entire universe.” If this is true; then the more we understand about the formation of the Mishkan, the more we understand about the structuring behind the universe. The Vilna Gaon continues, “…man is a ‘little world’ who also encompasses within him all the elements of existencein this sense, he too is a ‘Sanctuary’…when man sanctifies himself…the Divine Presence resides within him as it resided within the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.” The Mishkan is a microcosm of Creation, and Mankind is a microcosm of the Mishkan.  
These three all have something in common, and this commonality is related to the word “Mishkan.” For the rest of this observation I’m going to refer to the Tabernacle as “the Mishkan.” Why is this important? Because a Tabernacle is, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, “a house of worship…a large building or tent…a tent sanctuary used by the Israelites during the Exodus…a dwelling place…a temporary shelter.”
Whenever someone thinks of a Tabernacle, they immediately think—big tent in the desert. But a Mishkan is not just a big tent. God tells Moses in this portion, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” In Hebrew it says, “V’asu Li Mikdash V’shachan’ti B’tocham.”
“The Tabernacle in the Wilderness” Illustration from the Holman Bible (1890)
Now before I get into the Hebrew, I want to break this verse down. There is a command given in this verse and then there is the consequence of obedience or non-obedience to the command. The command is “V’asu Li Mikdash—Let them make me a Sanctuary.” If the Sanctuary is not built, then the second half of this verse means nothing…this is an if-then principle. If they (Israel) “make me a Sanctuary,” then “Shachan’ti B’tocham—I may dwell among them.” Now, back to the Hebrew. The first word we’re interested in, is the word “V’shachan’ti” or more precisely, the root word “Shachan.” This root word means, “to inhabit, to dwell, to live.” It is the root we get the word Shekinah from. It is also root to the word Mishkan. What does this mean to our verse? God is telling Israel, “Make me a dwelling place in your midst.” The Mishkan, or, the Tabernacle, wasn’t a large circus tent in the middle of the desert for Israel to meet with God in. It was God’s home among His people. So, instead of using the word Tabernacle—a big tent in the desert, I want to use the word Mishkan—a home for God among His people. This is where we get the idea of the “Shekinah Glory of God.” What does this mean? It means, the manifest presence of God as seen in this physical realm. God wanted a Mishkan built, so that He could dwell and interact with His people in this realm.
This helps us understand more of the meaning behind the Mishkan, but how do we reconcile the Universe, with the Mishkan, with humanity, as I mentioned earlier? What do these three things have in common with each other?
To find the unity between these seemingly different subjects, let’s go back to the verse from this portion and review one other Hebrew word. The word is “B’tocham,” which is generally translated as “among them.” But a literal translation of the phrase “Shachan’ti B’tocham” would be, “[that] I may dwell b’tocham—inside of them.” From this verse we understand, that God desires, not just for a building among us, He wants to “shachan-dwell” inside of us. He wants all of us to become “Mishkanot,” dwelling places for God. The universe, the Tabernacle-Mishkan, and we as mankind all have the ability to be dwellings for God. This is the connection between these three.
The more I know about the Mishkan, the more I will discern about myself and who I am to become. The more I discern about myself, the more I will understand the universe and my purpose within the creation. Because all three are places where God can dwell.
 
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Better known as the Kotzker Rebbe (1787–1859, Poland), once posed the question, “Where is God?” His talmidim—disciples answered this seemingly heretical question by replying “God is everywhere!”  “No,” the Kotzker Rebbe responded, “God dwells wherever we let God in.”
You see, God is everywhere, but He only dwells in the places where we allow Him. Where can God be found? In the places where He has been permitted entrance; God, doesn’t force Himself upon us. He desires that we yearn and desire Him. The building of the Mishkan allowed everyone in Israel to participate and invite God to dwell among them. As it says, “From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.” The nation of Israel gave the materials necessary to build a house for God. They desired God to dwell among them; they realized that gold and silver, precious stones and cloth, all these material things, were to be used to bring the physical reality of the spiritual mentality. All of us know that God is everywhere. But, have we invited Him to dwell among us? In our homes and families? In our communities and social groups? In our states and countries? Remember, God is everywhere, but He only dwells where He is invited.
 
With this being said, there is an order that must be in place if we want to invite God to dwell inside/among us. Everything that God does is done in order, by order and for order.
The whole Mishkan was arranged and ordered for the service of God. What is interesting to note, is, when we open up this Portion for the blueprint of the Mishkan, it starts in the reverse order of how we would normally go about making plans for a building.
While a typical building project would start with the outer walls and foundation for the building, the work of the Mishkan starts immediately with plans to build the items that would be inside the Tabernacle. God works from the inside out and not the outside in. He starts immediately with the most important items of the Mishkan and works His way outward, from the “Kodesh HaKodeshim—The Holy of Holies,” to the “Kodesh—Holy,” to the inner courtyard and beyond.
The first item on the list to be created was the “Aron HaBrit—The Ark of the Covenant.”  The Rabbis tell us that this ark was created using some of the gold from each individual Israelite, so that no one could claim ownership of the place where God said, “…there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat.” The lesson from this idea is that it takes all of us as a collective to create a place where God can meet with His people. From the collectives perspective, each individual person must be in order, so the nation can move forward.
This is why I want to move from collective responsibility to individual responsibility. It was the “community of Israel” that came together to build the Mishkan, but the people had to give to the cause and prepare themselves independently to receive God’s presence in and among them. God not only said He would dwell among them collectively; He said He would dwell inside of each of them individually.
Each of us has the ability to become a house for God. This is God’s desire. From the time of the Garden of Eden until now, God has wanted to dwell with mankind.
The Heart of a man, spiritually speaking, is his “Aron HaBrit—Ark of the Covenant.” Because we as humans are microcosms of the Mishkan, we function or should function just as the Tabernacle functioned. God’s Shekinah should be found upon the “mercy seat” of our heart. When the children of Israel were instructed on how to craft the Ark, there is an important verse that must be brought out. Exodus 25:10-11 tells us, “And [you] shall make an ark of acacia wood… And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it…”
Why is this verse so important? If the Ark represents mans heart, then the terms “overlay inside and out” gives us an important concept. This verse is telling us that we cannot be one person on the outside and another on the inside. Both inside and outside must be coated with gold. Yeshua Himself came out hard against the Pharisees of His day saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…cleanse the inside of the cup and dish that the outside of them may be clean also…you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” If each of us is, as 1 Corinthians 6 says, The temple of the Holy Spirit,” then we must daily live a life of introspection and self-betterment. Many people think the words “Self betterment” sound selfish; but if your betterment makes you a nicer person and more intune with God, then what’s the problem? There is nothing wrong with improving your Mishkan-Tabernacle-Temple for God!
 
Ultimately the whole world will become God’s dwelling place, but the first step starts when we invite and allow Him to dwell in us. We in Him and He in us, is what will transform the world back to how it was in Garden Eden!
Learn to live by another of the Kotzker Rebbes quotes, “People are accustomed to look at the heavens and to wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look within themselves, to see what happens there.”
 
I want to leave us with this idea that we learned earlier in this observation: God is everywhere, but He only dwells where He is invited. Invite God to come and dwell in your heart = your Aron HaBrit—Ark of the Covenant. And when you invite Him in, may His light, presence, essence and glory shine through you, bringing the whole world closer to being a Mishkan for God.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

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