The Mishkan’s lesson on Divine Providence

In her classic commentary on the Torah, the great Bible scholar, Nechama Leibowitz highlights the key features of the debate surrounding Hashem’s command to build the Mishkan. Her longer discussion is a masterpiece of Torah insights, of which I will summarize one aspect. The Rambam holds that the Mishkan was created after the sin of the Golden Calf, to give the people a physical home to worship the transcendent G-d. He felt that human nature needed support, guidance, and a structure to navigate truth and service of Hashem. He states that the great attention to detail in the Torah’s commands on the intricate design of the Mishkan does not have allegorical significance or important lessons for our life. The Ramban strongly disagrees with this approach. He states that the sin of the Golden calf only slowed the people down, from eventually building the incredibly holy structure, the Mishkan. He holds that the Miskhan’s elaborate features and details teach us key lessons about the structure of the universe and ourselves.

I believe incorporating both of these views in our everyday life allows us to have a more refined approach to Divine Providence. When bad things happen to our friends, family, or neighbor we should consider taking Rambam’s approach. Life simply has challenges and painful events; humans are in need of help, support, and comfort without seeking a divine reason to explain suffering. However, when we ourselves face challenges, then we can see the wisdom in the Ramban’s positions; we can look for the important lessons, the messages from Hashem, the meaning in the detail of our setbacks or successes. Ultimately, we can combine the views to ensure we are available to help our neighbor without condition, while listening for the still, small voice of Hashem guiding us through challenges to reach our higher potential.

About the Author
Jason Caplan is an entrepreneur living in Memphis, TN with his wife, and 2 children. He is a blues guitarist and enjoys performing at a variety of venues in Memphis. He teaches guitar to private students. Jason is also building a financial advisory practice. His primary social project is the Universal Language Room -- a dynamic community experience, synthesizing the ideas of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. At a ULR, participants learn to communicate and listen solely through improvisational music. Jason believes this program will help individuals communicate ideas and strengthen the bonds of trust in our society. This openness and enjoyment of dialogue and exchange of ideas can provide new, creative ways to meeting the challenges of modern society. Jason also created The Beit Tzitzit, Home of the Fringe, for Jews who live on the outside of the Jewish community life but love the teachings of Torah and want to find kindred spirits.
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