Boruch M. Boudilovsky
Boruch M. Boudilovsky
Rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya

Vayakhel Pikudei: Authentic spirituality

The detail to which the Torah goes into when outlining the construction of the tabernacle is enormous. What makes this extensive elaboration particularly surprising is that the Torah regularly writes succinctly, leaving the broadening of our knowledge to the oral law. In the case of the tabernacle, however, the Torah repeatedly goes into almost as much detail as possible.

What deepens this enigma is the contrast between the Torah’s depiction of creation to that of the tabernacle. The Torah commits thirty one verses to the creation of “heaven, earth, and their entire array”. Several dozen verses only are dedicated to the creation of the entire universe, in all its breath-taking beauty and remarkable complexity. However, when describing the design and formation of the tabernacle, a structure which extended to a mere twenty by ten beams, the Torah dedicates over three hundred verses!

To understand the seemingly disproportional devotion of over three hundred verses to the construction of the tabernacle, we need to reflect on the very essence of the Torah.

The Torah is mainly concerned with the relationship between humans and God. This relationship is characterized by a command from God, and a human response of deference, best exemplified in the giving of the Torah at Sinai. In a remarkable midrashik text, our sages analogically teach us that the Torah highlights the primary importance of this relationship by reserving the first letter of the alphabet (Alef) to the opening of the first command at Sinai. The account of creation beginning with the second word of the alphabet (Bet) is secondary in importance.

Judaism is fundamentally radical in its definition of spirituality. Spirituality, Judaism maintains, is not a product of a subjective emotional feeling but rather the objective discipline of human behavior. A relationship with God is not developed by withdrawing into soaring feelings of meditation, but rather by humbly and actively submitting to the will of God. This is precisely the role of Jewish law; to provide a detailed context to which we must discipline ourselves. Successful and consistent observance of Jewish law is what Judaism accepts as spirituality.

The tabernacle was designed to be a place of service to God. Consistent with the Jewish idea of spirituality, the tabernacle did not offer people a place where they could cathartically meditate on their own terms and individually decide what makes oneself feel close to God. Rather, the tabernacle, in its construction and subsequent service, was a place that imposed requirements upon man. Only by obediently performing the detailed tasks dictated by God, does man serve God. This is why the Torah dedicates over three hundred verses in the book of redemption to the tabernacle. The Torah is teaching us that we serve God by routinely disciplining ourselves to detailed rituals.

About the Author
Rabbi Boruch Boudilovsky was born in Israel and grew up in Scotland and New York. After graduating high school in Denver Colorado, Rabbi Boudilovsky moved back to Israel where he studied at Yeshiva, served as an IDF combat paratrooper, and completed his Rabbinic training. After working in Israel as both a formal and informal educator in various exciting environments, Rabbi Boudilovsky was appointed in 2010 as Associate Rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, the largest Orthodox community in the United Kingdom. During his years in London, Rabbi Boudilovsky led a successful startup Synagogue and community in South Borehamwood, and completed an MA at King’s College London in the department of Religion and Theology. In the summer of 2016, Rabbi Boudilovsky moved back to Israel with his family to accept the position of Rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya.
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