11 February 2016
This week’s parasha, Terumah, describes in great detail the building of the first Sanctuary, the mishkon. The mishkon is a special, and sacred, space that is designed to enhance the relationship between God and the people of Israel. God instructs Moses to have the people build a Sanctuary. But why?
If God is everywhere, why do we need a special space? Surely, nature is an inspiring backdrop in which to create a special relationship with God. Anyone who has witnessed a magnificent sunset, a glorious sky or a powerful storm may have considered the influence of God in such splendor.
In reality, it is a very human need to require such space. It is the sanctuary which focuses our thoughts, creates a sense of calm and most importantly, connects us with others. Each religion has such a gathering place; it appears to address a universal need. The mishkon was created with love, artistic skill and the involvement of the entire community. Most importantly, it was built voluntarily: “Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him” (Exodus 25:2).
The first sanctuary foreshadows the organization of today’s Jewish community – also built and sustained through the generosity of those who hearts are moved to do so. Communal success is not mandated, nor can it be guaranteed. And just as we create holiness in space, we create holiness in community – through the participation of those who are committed to its success.