Shabbat shalom, everyone!
Now, I know a dvar torah doesn’t HAVE to connect to the parsha, but it’s happening.
This week’s parsha, if you didn’t already know, is Parshat Pekudei, the final parsha in sefer Shmot. The sefer concludes with this account of the mishkan and its other miscellaneous fastenings. Now, although we are in Tzfat, city of kabbalah and hundreds of years of tradition, this practical parsha perfectly fits our location. It is one of the most technical parshiot of the whole sefer, full of numbers and instructions, but that means that it has the most meaning underneath.
In Tzfat, and in the parsha, heaven and earth come together. We heard all about that this week, just Thursday, on our Yom Chassidim seminar. Rav Avichai Cohen spoke about how he found meaning and enjoyment within the parameters of Judaism. He doesn’t, and we don’t either, have to sacrifice the physical world for spirituality. Materialism is a gift; all we have to do is use it the right way.
So – how could we learn this from the mishkan?
To begin with, the text tells us that the gold, silver, copper, and gems ornamenting the mishkan are each assigned specific tasks:
The menorah, shulchan, and ark were either gold or gold-plated. Gold threads were also added to coverings and the cohen gadol’s clothing.
The 100 silver talents were used to make the 100 foundation sockets for walls and posts. The rest of the silver was used for the hooks and trimmings for exterior coverings.
Copper was used to make the copper altar, all the vessels of the altar, the foundation sockets and all the pegs of the mishkan proper and the courtyard.
That’s not even a full list of what the metals went toward.
Now, I want to share three ideas about the gold, silver, and other materials used in building the mishkan. (Three because I really couldn’t pick a favorite.)
Idea 1: The gold represents the attribute of judgment, din, and silver represents the attribute of loving-kindness, chessed. The mishkan needed both precious metals to be complete (an idea fleshed out more thoroughly in the Zohar).
We needed to not only build using these symbolic metals, but we also needed to build with intention to make it into a place of well-rounded mindfulness.
Idea 2, from the Midrash HaGadol: The materials donated for the Mishkan correspond to the components of the human being. “Gold” is the soul; “silver,” the body; “copper,” the voice; “blue,” the veins; “red,” the blood; “shoham stones and gemstones,” the kidneys and the heart.
We built the mishkan to elevate aspects of our humanity, to use not only our bodies but reflections of it to double our commitment to reach for God.
Idea 3, also from Midrash HaGadol: The materials donated for the Mishkan correspond to the heavens. “Gold” is the sun; “silver,” the moon; “blue,” the sky. Said G‑d: “My dwelling is in the heavens; if you make Me a Sanctuary on earth, I shall dwell in it.”
We built the mishkan as a reflection of the heavens and brought it down here to earth.
As we can see, the sparkly facade of the mishkan wasn’t hollow shine. But I have an idea of my own about the glitter and glint of the mishkan to add:
Maybe these metals and minerals originate from the earth in order for us to use it to connect to on high, in a more realistic sense than mere metaphor.
We literally have to look downward – gold is found in quartz reefs, silver and copper in ore, carnelian in mineral deposits, emeralds in mines under mountains, agate within bedrock. Not only do they come from beneath, but to source these expensive materials, the Jews asked the Egyptians for them before they left! They weren’t going to build a bare-bones hut of wood in the name of spirituality. From low beginnings, we elevated – literally – the precious metals and gems to be used for a higher purpose.
Our job is to learn from this balance of heaven and earth. Though we look down to seek the glint of gold, to dig for gems, we have to look up every once in a while, and we have to thank god, realize a higher spiritual reality through and because of the riches we handle. We can’t constantly live on a cloud, above and beyond our bodies. But we can’t live like moles either, buried in dirt until we hit the next shiny rock. We have to live like humanity is meant to live, gifted with the ability to balance our lives and maximise our potential.
Not only do we need to balance our physical and spiritual matters, we need to balance our interpersonal relationships. Seminar on Thursday gave us the hammer to break down our biases toward stereotypes, but we might not necessarily FEEL that as deeply as we should. We might KNOW it, but not…feel it. I might not relate as easily to the chareidi as I might to the secularist, but I should fix that. We should fix that. Even though someone might not hold me in the highest regard, not with the same respect that I deserve as a member of the human race, I need to start with myself. I need to look inward to be the bigger person and respect others, treating them the way I want to be treated, before I even begin to judge, to even think about, the way others act. I need to balance my treatment of others, making sure everyone is equal, before I accuse anyone of disrespect.
I have to look downward in order to look upward, seek the earth’s gold to understand the value of heaven. I have to look inward to balance my outer relationships.
I’ll leave you with this: may we all develop our conscious ability to take a step back and decide what we need to balance so that we may grow, happy, healthy, and content with our God and our place in the universe.