The Creator had commanded the Jewish People to build a sanctuary within which the Divine Presence would dwell. The construction of this sanctuary required crafts both complicated and delicate out of wood and metals, gold, silver, and copper. Tapestries with beautiful images appearing on both sides were to be woven from threads of a twenty-four-strand fiber count. The Jews were commanded to perform these craft having been slaves of bricks and mortar in Egypt not (or just?) a year prior. None of them had any familiarity with carpentry, the skills of a goldsmith, weaving, tannery, or stonecutting. Where would such master craftsmen be found?
The answer was simple: Had the Torah been discussing the construction of a palace for a king of flesh and blood, indeed the question of their amateurism would have stood. Lacking any knowledge or experience, no noble palazzo would have issued from their unskilled hands, but a grossly constructed hovel bound to do nothing but waken the monarch’s fury.
However, these limitations became irrelevant when discussing the construction of a palace for the King of all kings -- the Almighty was interested in His people’s purity of heart and their sincere longing to serve Him. Upon confirming the ardency of their will and their generosity of spirit, it was He Himself who bestowed upon them the talents, knowledge, and skills to succeed at their tasks. The Jewish People lacked nothing. As all is His, and all human strengths issue from Him alone, He gave them “the strength to do great things” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
“He filled them with a wise heart to do every craft of the carver, weaver of designs, and embroiderer – with the turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool, and the linen…the artisans of every craft and the makers of designs” (Exodus 35:35). The Mishkan built by their hands shone with perfection. No eye had ever seen the glory and majesty of such an edifice! G-d’s gifts did not stop with the Mishkan, though. This event carried with it a lesson for all generations.
We know that the Mishkan serves as a model for the divine service of every individual Jew. Every one of us is entrusted with the obligation to build an internal Mishkan within in order to make ourselves a living sanctuary for the Divine Presence. Our hearts are compared to the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies) wherein were held the luchos, the two tablets which Moshe (Moses) had brought down from Mount Sinai containing the Torah. Our hearts, hinted the Mishkan, must hold and cherish the Torah at their center as well. The menorah indicated the light of intelligence that must guide our decisions. The ketores (incense) bespoke the pleasant atmosphere we may create around ourselves by virtue of our refined character. The Mishkan table depicted the requirement to ensure righteousness and purity in all our financial dealings, and the ki’or, the basin with which the priests washed their bodies, hinted at our need to remaining clean of the ugliness of evil. Every vessel symbolized an aspect of our lives.
But just as the Mishkan required construction, so do we. In constructing our internal Mishkan we are apt to wonder whether we are capable of producing these exquisite, delicate, complex qualities within ourselves and our lives. Are we capable of achieving such great heights? Can we truly make ourselves into a fitting home for the Presence of the Almighty Himself?
Comes Parashas Pekudei and reassures us: If you truly desire and make a firm decision to grow, your efforts will be blessed from on high. When we make the continual effort to come before our rabbis and teachers in order to receive the Torah’s guidance, we will not be left empty handed. Our receptivity will be rewarded with guidance, help, and internal strength. The knowledge, understanding, and wisdom we yearn for will be forthcoming. We will receive what we need to succeed at building our internal Mishkan, glorious and beautiful, exquisite and sacred -- the actualization of our truest self. What the Almighty Himself desires is our sincere commitment. All the rest is in His hands.