This week, in Parasha Terumah we receive God’s instructions regarding the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).
During the last two weeks, God has instructed the Israelites in the basic laws of Judaism. In Parasha Yitro, God handed down the Ten Commandments. Then, in Parasha Mishpatim God gives the basic laws of community life, regarding what damages are owed by a person who hurts someone else, or harms or loses someone else’s property, or if his animal hurts a person or his property.
Now, in Parasha Terumah, God invites the people to give precious items for building the Mishkan – gold, silver, and copper, together with beautiful wool and skins to make coverings, and wood, spices and valuable stones.
God then instructs Moses on how to construct the Mishkan with wood and beautiful fabrics, and also the altars and other items to be used in the Mishkan. These include the Ark of the Covenant to hold the two tablets on which the Ten Commandments have been inscribed, the Cover for the Ark, the Table for the Showbread (special loaves of bread), the Menorah (made from a single piece of pure gold), and the Copper Altar.
God instructed the building of the Mishkan and its sacred equipment as a Sanctuary so God could dwell among the people. God manifested the Divine Presence in the form of a cloud, called the Shechina.
The instructions to the Israelites to create a place for God to dwell remind me of another creation whose form God ordained way back in Parasha Bereishis, when God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” Bereishis 1:26.
So, while God created everything in the Universe, two things were endowed with a special connection to God – the Mishkan, where God’s presence, the Shechina, rested, and each person, who was made in God’s image.
Remember this when you deal with other people. We no longer have the Temple, but we encounter God’s image whenever we see or speak to another person. Be Friendly, Courteous, and Kind.