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The Mishkan -  More Than an Ikea Project - D'var Torah for Parshat Terumah, 5781

02/24/2021 10:26:05 AM


Man and woman building diy furniture

The last two thirds of the Book of Exodus is focused on building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the traveling compound containing a fenced-in courtyard, altar, tent and inner sanctum sanctorum that held the Aron HaBrit; the Ark of the Covenant.  

The first few times I read this account, it made little sense to me.  After the great themes of freedom and liberation and the stand at Sinai which open the Book of Exodus, to have the sacred book suddenly turn into an instruction manual for what amounts to an Ikea project (although rather than pressed wood and pegs, the Mishkan is made of gold, silver, brass, tapestries and gems), seemed colossally anti-climactic.

But fifty years of interacting with the world has taught me differently.  You have to come down from the mountain eventually.  And when you do, the only way to have the time up there mean anything at all is to build something.  The Mishkan is the concretization of the Exodus and Sinai. To build a spiritual center, a place of peace and reconciliation, a place of encounter with G-d and each other: that is the legacy of both the horrors of slavery and the wonder of liberation.  

And the work goes on.  One of the great human powers is the power of creating a home: a Jewish communal home in a shul and a Jewish family home, protected by mezuzot, sanctified by Shabbat candles and precious family ritual objects, Jewish books and pictures of our parents, ancestors and children.  How much peace, love, continuity and holiness have been brought into the world over a Shabbat dinner, how many bridges built at a Seder?  And all of that light has one source: the Mishkan that we built when we came out of Egypt and down from Sinai.  The work goes on and it is more important than ever.  Let us continue to build together.  

Shabbat Shalom

Wed, July 28 2021 19 Av 5781