- God asks the Children of Israel to donate gifts (t'rumah) for the building of the Tabernacle so that God may "dwell among them." (25:1-9)
- Instructions for the construction of the Ark, table, and menorah are provided. (25:10-40)
- Detailed directions are given on how to build the Tabernacle. (26:1-27:19)
By Bill Schwartz
At the end of parshat Yitro, Exodus 20:20 G-d reminds the Israelites not to make any gods from gold or silver. G-d also commands the Israelites to build an altar of earth and to make a burnt offering.
In this week’s portion, in Exodus 25:1 G-d commands the Israelites to bring to Him all their gold, silver, other metals, fabric, gems etc if their hearts so desire. He then commands the Israelites to build an Ark, an altar, a table, floor length candle holders and a tabernacle. All objects to be covered in gold or to be made of solid gold. The tabernacle is to be covered with the fine linens. G-d gives very specific directions on how to build these things.
When I started to read this portion, I first had doubts about where the Israelites would have even found all of the gold, silver and other minerals, and the fine cloth and gemstones. I had to go back to Exodus 12:35. There I found my answer. It says the Israelites borrowed all of these things. Two lines later it says the Israelites stripped them from the Egyptians. I think it was the latter. All the Egyptians wanted, was to get rid of the Israelites. Now things made sense.
But does G-d really need the extravagant tabernacle be made of these precious metals and fine linens? I don't think so. Remember, just a few paragraphs before, G-d had the Israelites build an altar of earth.
So what is G-d's motive for building this extravagant place to worship?
I believe G-d wanted the Israelites to use up all the gold, silver, copper, gemstones and fine fabrics so they could not make any idols from these things. Why did G-d give such detailed directions on how to make every little thing? I believe that He is teaching idle hands make idle minds which make idols.
Just to give you an idea of what it would take to build a tabernacle from an acacia tree, the one used is called the Shittah tree. It is similar to the trees you see in the African plains pictures. They look like a fan growing out of the ground with almost no trunk. G-d gives the dimensions of the tabernacle: 10 cubits long x 1 ½ cubits wide. Translated into English it comes out to 16’ H X 30” W. This is quite a feat considering what they had to use and must have taken a very long time. Even the making of the Ark would have been time consuming. Just think of all the molds that had to be made for those objects that were made of pure gold.
I've learned that G-d's message isn't always obvious. He wants us to dig a little.