What’s with all the bling? If humility is a primary religious value, why doesn’t God model that value in the construction of His home? Is the use of precious materials a divine affirmation of their value?

One element common to most of the construction of the Mishkan is that it is gilded or layered. Except for the Menorah, all of the vessels, including the carrying poles, are made of wood covered in gold or silver. In chapter 26, this theme carries over to the fabrics of the Mishkan as well, with simple goat skins surrounded by lavishly colored coverings above and below. What is the significance of all this? Why have a goat skin covering? Why use wood, rather than making everything from pure gold like the menorah?

The dynamic of inside and outside is central to the Mishkan, with sanctity increasing as you move inwards. If this is the case, then perhaps the inner layers of the Mishkan are the holiest as well. The Midrash on these verses expounds on the idea that God speaks to us not in strict accordance with the truth of His existence, but rather according to our own strength and capacity to receive and understand. This idea is a reflection not of weakness, of course, but of God’s humility. God greatness is not threatened by confining it to human standards. Where you find God’s strength, the rabbis teach, there you find his humility.

Perhaps the source of the glitz stems from the same idea, reflecting not divine affirmation, but simply human appreciation of all that glitters. What God needs is no more than a simple shepherd’s hut of wood and goat skin, and in truth, not even that. But the radical message of the Torah is that the Mishkan is built to fit people’s standards, not God’s, and what people need in order to relate with awe and respect is gold, silver and other precious materials.   It’s a message we’ve already seen, but one which bears frequent review- to create covenantal relationships means listening to the other even when we know they’re wrong.

This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. Chapter 26 was Sunday. I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation

What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il