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To the Point

As a general rule, the Torah is extremely concise. Rarely does the Torah expend extra words. Yet, we find that there are four portions in the Torah discussing the same topic—the erecting of a Mishkan, a sanctuary, in the desert. The portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh describe the command of G-d to erect the sanctuary, while this week’s portions, Vayakhel and Pikudei, describe the Jews carrying out this command.

Why could the Torah not have sufficed with a simple mention, “The children of Israel carried out the decree as G-d had commanded them”? Why does the Torah repeat all the information in such detail, in not one but two additional Torah portions?

Rashi, in his commentary on the Torah, explains that whatever is particularly precious to G-d is discussed at great length in the Torah. One example is the repetition of the entire story of Eliezer, servant of Abraham, who was sent on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. The Torah tells his story once when he sets out on his journey and again when he describes the purpose of his mission to the family of Rebecca, Isaac’s chosen bride. There, Rashi explains that G-d cherishes “the speech of the servants of our ancestors more than the Torah of their children.”

The Sanctuary and its vessels were likewise so precious to G-d that the Torah devotes a great deal of attention to them. The Jews, too, greatly cherished the Mishkan, and eagerly gave their own most treasured possessions to build it. This was the place that G-d had promised, “Make for me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.” The Mishkan was especially dear to the Jews since it symbolized that G-d had forgiven them for the sin of the Golden Calf.

The commandment to build the Mishkan is considered part of “Torah”—its laws, lessons and commandments. The actual carrying out of the command, as described in the portions of Vayakhel and Pikudei, are part of “speech”—the informal response of Moses and the Jewish people to G-d’s decree. Like Eliezer, who hastened to carry out his master’s decree and who merited a lengthy portion in the Torah, the Jewish people also showed tremendous dedication to G-d’s decree, which the Torah describes at great length.

There were two aspects to the overwhelming response of the Jewish people to the call to donate for the Mishkan. First, everyone came forth and gave generously of their personal possessions. Then, everyone who had talent in spinning, weaving or sewing devoted their talents and creativity to beautify the Sanctuary.

It was this display of alacrity and devotion that makes these two Torah portions so precious to G-d. Building the Mishkan was a form of prayer, a service of the heart. The spontaneous outpouring of love by the Jewish people was reciprocated by G-d, when He descended to the Mishkan and dwelled among the Jewish people.

And G-d promises to do the same to this day, wherever we reside. We can transform any place, our homes, our schools, our synagogues, our workplaces, into a sanctuary for G-d, simply by living in it the way G-d desires. And we are guaranteed that if we build the Sanctuary with love and dedication, it will likewise be loved and cherished by G-d.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot vol. 16, p. 458)
 

 


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