Moses does. And the people respond. They respond so generously that Moses is told, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done” (Ex. 36:5), and Moses has to say, Stop.

`During the whole time the Mishkan was being constructed, there were no complaints, no rebellions, no dissension. What all the signs and wonders failed to do, the construction of the Tabernacle succeeded in doing. It transformed the people. It turned them into a cohesive group. It gave them a sense of responsibility and identity.

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Seen in this context, the story of the Tabernacle was the essential element in the birth of a nation. No wonder it is told at length; no surprise that it belongs to the book of Exodus; and there is nothing ephemeral about it. The Tabernacle did not last forever, but the lesson it taught did.

It is not what G-d does for us that transforms us, but what we do for G-d. A free society is best symbolized by the Tabernacle. It is the home we build together. It is only by becoming builders that we turn from subjects to citizens. We have to earn our freedom by what we give. It cannot be given to us as an unearned gift. It is what we do, not what is done to us, that makes us free. That is a lesson as true today as it was then.

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Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I guess it depends on the reader. For me it means that G-d can be everywhere the Jews are. The Mishkan could be disassembled and again set up each time the Jews traversed the land(s). The Jews did not build elaborate tombs or grandiouse architecture although that's what they saw in Egypt. They united in labor and will and faith to build a place for their G-d beside and among them. Such a tabernacle can be anywhere the Jews are. How holy were those tents. Nowhere does Hashem say they were merely make-dos until a great and magnificent housing could be provided. Make Me a Mishkan in the desert wherever you stop and dwell for a time. I am with you. The inner sense of proximity wherever and at any time to our G-d must be derived from that time. Just my thoughts.

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