KJ Hannah Greenberg

Uplifting Offerings

Bringing offerings to Hashem, whether the animals and flour of Temple times, or present day prayers, uplifts us since our offerings bond us to Him. Both Shabbot and the Mishkan characterize how we substantiate this connection.

He commands us to keep Shabbot and to build the Mishkan. Shabbot is the eternal covenant (“Exodus 31”) between Him and us. The Mishkan is Am Yisrael’s dwelling place for Him. “They shall build Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell within them” (“Exodus 25”). Shabbot and the Mishkan are holy. They’re part of Am Yisrael’s tafkid “to reveal the sparks of holiness and unite the physical and the spiritual” (Shurach).

Per Shabbot, in the Torah, Hashem commands us to keep Shabbat after commanding us to build the Mishkan and, again, after listing the details of its erection. Initially, Hashem tells Moshe, “You must keep my sabbaths [sic.] for this is a sign between Me and you through the ages” (“Exodus 31”). Thereafter, Moshe instructs Am Yisrael that “[t]hese are the things that [Hashem] has commanded you to do [o]n six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall had sabbath [sic.] of complete rest” (“Exodus 35”).

Commemorating the Shabbat of the Creation by stopping work on the Mishkan shows that building the Sanctuary is a continuation of the work of creation; going one step further and basing the prohibition of everyday labors on the work of the Mishkan shows that these labors are [also] a continuation of the work of the Sanctuary (Meir).

Per the Mishkan, after accompanying the Jewish people during our forty years of wandering, it was brought to Eretz Yisrael. Here, it continued to be a home for Hashem for roughly four hundred years. Subsequently, King Solomon’s Beit HaMikdash replaced it.

Hashem desires Am Yisrael’s creation of a place for Him on Earth.

As a wise man explained, imagine if a wealthy husband professes to love his wife and says he would do anything for her. She asks him to pick up a piece of jewelry for her. He never gets around to it. Will she really believe that his love is genuine? And if she asks for something simple, like picking up some groceries, and he just makes excuses, she knows for sure that his devotion isn’t real. The same is true in G-dly terms. If [we] won’t act in even the smallest way on your professed convictions, what do they really mean? (Golshevsky).

Note, Hashem doesn’t need our input; He wants it. He similarly wants us to grasp how to separate the holy from the mundane. So, He gifted us thirty-nine melachot, i.e., categories of prohibited actions, all associated with fabricating the Mishkan, to teach us that Shabbot bans are based on creativity, not effort. “You will keep My sabbaths [sic.] and venerate My sanctuary” (“Leviticus 19”).

More exactly, the fifteen materials used to form the Mishkan can be concomitantly equated to us and to heaven, thus indicating our everlasting relationship. They’re comparable to

elements of human bodies. “Gold” is the soul; “silver,” the body; “copper,” the voice; “blue,” the veins; “purple,” the flesh; “red,” the blood; “flax, the intestines; “goat hair,” the hair; “ram skins dyed red,” the skin of the face; “tachash skins,” the scalp; “shittim wood,” the bones; “oil for lighting,” the eyes; “spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense,” the nose, mouth and palate; “shoham stones and gemstones for setting,” the kidneys and the heart (“Parsha in Depth”).

Concurrently, these materials are comparable to Hashem’s abode.

“Gold” is the sun; “silver,” the moon; “copper,” the western horizon at sunset; “blue,” the sky; “purple,” the clouds; “red,” the rainbow; “flax,” the seraphim; “goat,” the constellation of capricorn; “ram skins dyed red,” thunder; “tachash skins,” lightening; “shittim wood,” shooting stars; “oil for lighting,” the seven planets; “spices for the anointing oil and for the incense,” dew and rain; “shoham stones and gemstones for setting”— hail and snow (“Parsha in Depth”).

The Mishkan’s materials links us Hashem’s kingdom as well as to Shabbot (prohibitions.) All in all, by preparing a place for Hashem, we establish room in our lives for sacredness. Furthermore, the injunction to preserve Shabbot includes additional restrictions to insure that we treat Shabbot as distinct (“Muktezeh”). Namely, on Shabbot, we’re to avoid muktza. Some things are “not muktza.” Some are “Kli She’me’lachto l’heter.” Some are “Kli She’me’lachto l’issur.” Some are completely muktza” (Kaganoff).

“Not muktzah” “includes food, sifrei kodesh and, according to many poskim, tableware…and clothing” (Kaganoff) “Kli She’me’lachto l’heter” includes “utensil[s] whose primary use is permitted on Shabbos, such as a chair or pillow. One may move [them] if one needs to use [them], if [they are] in the way, or if [they] might become damaged” (Kaganoff). “Kli She’me’lachto l’issur” includes “utensil[s] whose primary use is forbidden on Shabbos, such as a hammer, a saw, or a needle. [Nonetheless, they] may be moved if they are in the way or if one has a need to use [them] for a purpose permitted in Shabbos.” “Completely muktzah” “utensil[s..] may not [be moved] under normal circumstances” (Kaganoff). In this manner, we avoid touching/moving goods emblematic of the building of the Mishkan to honor Shabbot and to glorify Hashem.

However, we’re imperfect beings

Like the boxes of the ark, we, too, are made up of layers. On the inside we are made from “pure gold,” a G‑dly soul that is untainted and holy and wants only to do what’s right and good. The next layer is our conscious self—our temperament, moods and feelings. This part of us isn’t always so pure or shiny. And finally, there is the outer box, the part of ourselves that we allow the world to see through our actions.

We might feel hypocritical to put on a golden face to the world when inside we’re feeling the opposite[, b]ut the construction of the ark teaches us that we can improve our feelings through our actions. It’s all right to have some “wooden” moments but outwardly act “golden.” Actions create internal change. Act the part, and you become it (Weisberg, 2016).

Consequently, we utilize bitei haknesset and bitei hamidrashot, all of which are modeled after the Mishkan to enable us, for now, to substitute prayer for Temple service. All the same, we long for the Third Temple.

By resting from our creativity on Shabbat, as dictated by the nature of materials used to build the Mishkan, we imitate God Who rested from his creativity on the final day of Creation. By establishing houses of prayer and Torah learning and by praying and learning Torah, we do the best that we can to substitute for the Mishkan and, hence, fashion a space for Him, here. In thusly connecting to Him, we elevate ourselves.


“Exodus 25.” Jewish Publication Society. 2006. Accessed 9 Apr. 2024.

“Exodus 31.” Jewish Publication Society. 2006. Accessed 8 Apr. 2024.

“Exodus 35.” Jewish Publication Society. 2006. Accessed 8 Apr. 2024.

Golshevsky, Yehudis. “The Truth Will Out.” Accessed 7 Apr. 2024.

Kaganoff, Rabbi Yirmiyohu. “The Spectrum of Muktzah Utensils.” Accessed 7 Apr. 2024.

Leviticus 19.” Jewish Publication Society. 2006. Accessed 9 Apr. 2024.

Meir, Rabbi Asher. “The 39 Forbidden Shabbot Melachot.” Accessed 9 Apr. 2024.

“Muktezeh.” Accessed 7 Apr. 2024.

“Parsha in Depth.” Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Shurach, Nuta Yisrael. “Bring the Zoo Home.” Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Weisberg, Chana. “Go Ahead: Fake It Till You Make it.” 8 Feb. 2016. Accessed 9 Apr. 2024.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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