Mordechai Silverstein

We Need But Try

The completion of the work on the mishkan – the Tabernacle is marked in Parshat Naso, using language reminiscent of the language used for God’s creation of the world:

And it happened on the day Moshe finished (kalot – root letters: kaf lamet ,taf) setting up the Tabernacle, that he anointed and consecrated it… (Numbers 7:1)

Then the heavens and the earth were completed (vayakhulu), and all their array. And God completed (vayakhal) on the seventh day the task He had done… (Genesis 2:1-2)

The parallel language in these two passages inspired not only the idea that the human construction of the Tabernacle was an imitation of the divine act of creating the world, but also a close association between God and the habitat which the children of Israel created for communication and worship of God, as we note in the following midrash:

Come and see. When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe that he should tell Israel to make a  mishkan – Tabernacle, the Holy One Blessed be He said: ‘Moshe, My Temple is built above (on high)’ … But out of love for you, I left my Temple on high, which had been prepared before the world was created, to come down and dwell among you… Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: ‘This is one of the three commands which Moses heard from the mouth of the Almighty and which frightened him…

And when God said to him: “And make me a sanctuary [that I may dwell among them]” (Exodus 25:8), Moshe said [to the Holy One, blessed be He:] “Even the heavens and the heavens above the heavens cannot contain you!” (in I Kings 8:27) … So, how can we make for Him a sanctuary? The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “I am not asking [for a sanctuary built according to My ability] but rather in accordance with their abilities” …

When Israel heard this, they arose and donated gladly and made the Tabernacle. When they had made the Tabernacle, immediately it was filled with the light of the Holy One Blessed be He and His glory… The princes said, “Now is the time for us to offer sacrifices with joy, because the Divine Presence is dwelling among us.”

Where is it shown? From what they read on the matter: ‘And it happened on the day Moshe finished.’ (Numbers 7:1) (adapted from Tanhuma Naso 11)

Our relationship with God is symbiotic. There is give and take. If in our efforts to affect a relationship with God, we are expected to match God’s deeds when we attempt to emulate Him, a relationship with God will be impossible. There might even be a temptation not to even try, making all attempts for intimacy with God impossible. God makes it quite clear in this midrash that that is not the case and that are earnest efforts are most welcome.

About the Author
Mordechai Silverstein is a teacher of Torah who has lived in Jerusalem for over 30 years. He specializes in helping people build personalized Torah study programs.
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