In His initial commands to the Jewish people to construct a Mishkan (Tabernacle) in Parashat Terumah, Hashem turns to the people and says that there will be various materials that will need to be donated. The first three materials He mentions are: gold, silver and bronze/copper. Using these materials, the Jewish people will build the first (portable) sanctuary in this world to serve as a meeting point between Man and G-d. It is here that sacrifices will be brought; that Hashem will communicate with Moshe; that the Menorah would be lit daily and a whole host of other rituals will occur…all with the focus of drawing the Jewish People closer to G-d and to give a physical location on Earth for the Shechina (the Divine Presence) to manifest Itself.
In just a few days, tens of thousands of people will descend on the city of Sochi, Russia, a city of approximately 400,000 residents but a GIANT city in the world of sports for many days due to the upcoming Olympics to be held there. In addition, millions of people will follow the competitions that will take place there by watching on TV, the internet or via many other means.
And at the end of each event, winners will be declared and music will be played. And around the necks of the winners will be placed one of three possible medals/metals: Gold, Silver or Bronze. Yes, the very same materials mentioned by G-d that were to be brought to construct the Mishkan, it is those same materials that will hang around the necks of the victors of the Olympics.
And, I believe that there is a very clear message here:
The ancient Olympic games were religious and athletic festivals held every four years at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. The winners of the events were admired and immortalized in poems and statues. The goal was to celebrate the human body which was idealized and idolized to the point of deification. And today, when continuing in the “Olympic tradition” by playing the games every four years and testing human endurance and strength to its limits (albeit not in the Temple of Zeus), the reward for these efforts is gold, silver and bronze. These medals represent the perseverance of the human body and the celebration of the human body itself.
And then we look at what G-d commands us to do with gold, silver and bronze: build for Him a Mishkan! While there are reasons to celebrate human accomplishment, we must recognize that the true accomplishment and the truest reward is when we use our “wealth,” our gold, silver and bronze to celebrate our relationship with Hashem.