“You shall place in the ark the testimonial tablets that I shall give you.” (Exodus 25:16)
If you’ve ever assembled a piece of Ikea furniture you know that moment when you you’ve finished the job but then notice two screws still lying on the floor. It looks complete, but you’re left with a nagging feeling: what did I miss?
L’havdil, (or, to make a distinction) Parashat T’rumah lists all the materials needed to build the mishkan, or Tabernacle. It describes in exacting detail the dimensions of every individual piece and how to fit them all together. (Unlike Ikea, it doesn’t offer pictures to guide you.) This ensures the mishkan will be put together properly to fulfill its practical function: housing luchot habrit, the Tablets of the Covenant. But the mishkan has another function, which is hinted at by a small phrase in the midst of all the detail. In describing how to connect the mishkan’s curtains, T’rumah says, “You shall make fifty hooks of gold, and you shall attach the curtains to one another with the hooks, so that the mishkan shall become one.” (Ex. 26:6).
Once the mishkan is completed, the identity of the hundreds of separate pieces is transformed and there exists only one integrated structure: the mishkan. Its purpose is to connect. It is where heaven and earth meet and where God’s and humanity’s wills converge. Constructing the mishkan requires the coordinated effort of the Israelite people, initiating a virtuous cycle: only when the people are one can they build the mishkan. And only when the mishkan is one can it elevate the people spiritually.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom