Exodus 38:21 to 40:35
With this parsha, as the Tabernacle is assembled, we take a closer look at this structure, its significance, and its similarities to our present-day sanctuaries.
This parsha completes the Book of Exodus…. The Israelites are assembling the Tabernacle … “ the home for God.” This structure creates a visual reminder for the people of the ever-presence of God in their community. It also represents a partnership that is building between God and the Israelites. In this partnership God creates all that is on earth … then, mankind is responsible for its maintenance.
In regard to the Tabernacle, it has been said that God created the world as a home for mankind…. Now, mankind, through the Tabernacle, is building a home for God on earth.
This Tabernacle seems like a thing from the far distant past. But, as we will see later, an examination of the components of this structure shows that it has a great similarity to our own houses of worship.
At the center of the Tabernacle is the ark. This is God’s residence when on Earth. God’s voice emanates from the area between the two gold cherubim which are placed on the cover of the ark. This ark is the only item of furnishing in this inner chamber. (Ex. 25:22)
According to Torah the ark contains the following items:
1. The two tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written – both the one that Moses destroyed after seeing the Golden Calf and the one he created after this event. (Deut. 10:1-5)
2. A gold pot containing the manna which God gave to feed the Israelites. This was kept to remind the people of the complaining and grumbling that transpired. (Ex. 16:33-34)
3. Aaron’s budding rod. This rod showed the people that God wanted them to avoid idolatry and rebellion. This rod demonstrated that the Israelites should follow their leaders who were divinely selected to serve. (Num. 17:10)
Next to the room containing the ark is an outer room of the structure. The priests are the only ones allowed in this area. This section contained the following.
Menorah – This item provided the only light in this chamber which didn’t have any windows. The six arms of the unit were to be lit every night. Then one of the arms would remain lit during the daylight hours. Commentators stated that this light represents the “light of knowledge” that is contained in the laws and commandments of the Eternal. (Ex. 25:31-40)
Bread Table – This table is to contain loaves of bread and other libations as a perpetual offering to God. (Ex. 25:23-30)
Incense Altar – This smaller altar was used to burn a specific mixture of incense as an offering to God as the priest tended the menorah in the morning and lit the lamps in the evening. Because of the deaths to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, it is felt that only the prescribed mixture of incense be used. This tragic incident shows the priests the importance of distinguishing between the sacred and the profane. (Ex. 30:1-9, Lev. 10:1-11)
The open-air court yard outside the Tabernacle’s covered areas includes:
Bronze Water Basin – This basin was placed just before the entrance to the covered, holy areas. The basin was used by the priests to clean and purify both their bodies and clothing before they appeared before the Eternal. (Ex. 30:17-22)
The Altar for making public sacrifices to God. (Ex. 27:1-8)
Only the high priest enters this inner room – the Holy of Holies – there God resides.. The outer room contains items dedicated to God and is only occupied by priests. These two areas are compared to heaven. The open court yard – where the Israelites being their offerings – is compared to earth.
As mentioned earlier, out present sanctuary has many similarities to the Tabernacle.
The ark containing the Torah – the word of God – is the focal point of our sanctuary. The ark only contains the Torah and can be compared to the inner room of the Tabernacle where God is said to reside. While the area around the ark – the beimah – is not exclusively used by the rabbis, it is considered a more sacred area (more like the heaven comparison of the Tabernacle). The remainder of the sanctuary is for use by the congregation and can be likened to the Tabernacle’s open court year which is compared to earth…. Yes, it sort of does look like similar to the Tabernacle.
With these thoughts, we end our study of the Book of Sh’mot/Exodus …. And, as usual, at the end of each book of Torah we say … Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazak: From strength to strength we strengthen each other. May we continue to find strength and friendship through our study of Torah?