Torah Portion: Trumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) – the making of the Tabernacle:
“How many are your works, Lord; in wisdom You made them all” (Ps. 104: 24).
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that the word “wisdom” here – as in the many times it occurs in the account of the making of the tabernacle – means, “precise, exact craftsmanship” (see Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, III:54).
For some 40+ years now Physicists have been increasingly demonstrating that the creation of the Universe is extremely, mind-numbingly precise. In 1973-74 Brandon Carter, a British mathematician proposed that the universe appears “designed” for the sake of human life.
More than a century of astronomy and physics research has yielded this unexpected observation: the emergence of humans and human civilization requires physical constants, laws, and properties that fall within certain extremely narrow ranges—and this truth applies not only to the cosmos as a whole but also to the galaxy, planetary system, and the planet humans occupy.
This proposal and understanding is now called The Anthropic Principle. To state the principle more dramatically, a preponderance of physical evidence points to humanity as the central theme of the cosmos (for more on this see my 4 part series on Intelligent Design at www.circumcisedheart.info ).
But note also from Ps 104:24 the importance of order, of precision, of exactness. This Universe, with us human beings as its central focus, has been created with such incredible care.
We have also been created in the image of the Creator Himself. That is, He has instilled within us, the power to create, and to create with precision and great care as well.
So if we are to be all that we have been designed to be, we too need to align ourselves with our creative wisdom; with our ability and natural affinity for the creation of order. When we align our lives with the order and instructions (laws) of our Creator, then we separate ourselves from the creation that was not ‘made in His image’ and we in turn approach holiness (separation to God).
The Almighty is Spirit and is so far above and beyond our limited minds that it is very hard to fully grasp His ‘wisdom’, His order and precision.
In describing the Tabernacle in such precise detail though and promising to dwell or live amongst the children of Israel (“They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them.” – Ex 25:8), the Almighty not only enables the Jewish people to emulate His creative precision and order in their creating of this ‘meeting place’, but he practically and dramatically aligns Himself with them.
The call to build a Tabernacle may seem very strange though, as we know that the Almighty can not be contained within this Universe; and also that He is already everywhere within this Universe as well!
In Psalm 24:1 we read “The earth is YHVH’s and the fullness thereof, …”
We also read in Isaiah 6:3 “And one called to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is YHVH of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
That is, everything is God’s and God is in everything. So how can we give Him anything and how can he dwell in a Tabernacle made with human hands?
Part of the answer to the question of everything already belonging to God, is that there is one thing that does not belong to Him, and that is the ‘fear of heaven’. The Almighty has given us the gift of free will. It is always our choice as to whether we give Him our hearts; whether we ‘circumcise’ our hearts. Whenever we give gifts to God (as per Ex 25:2), the real gift is not the object but the repentant and obedient heart that does the giving.
So the Tabernacle enabled the Jewish people to demonstrate their ‘circumcised hearts’.
May I also suggest though, that when we consider the background of these slaves in Egypt, we can imagine how they would have struggled for a great many years to accept the presence and protection of their God throughout this ordeal. Now, He has rescued them from Egypt; He has demonstrated His awesome power and bestowed great blessings upon them. But they are perhaps still reprehensive and anxious like small children. They may need much assurance and comfort.
So how can this loving Father demonstrate on a daily basis that He truly is with His people?
He can create a place amongst them, where in a physical as well as spiritual manner, the people can see and sense His presence; His protection, salvation and love. More than the daily miracle of the Manna, the glory of God emanating from the Tabernacle presents a visible and tangible reminder of His presence.
As usual, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks brings this all out most eloquently in his Torah Portion here –http://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/139679273.html