Why Build It At All?
by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, author of Unlocking the Torah Text
As the Israelites stand rooted at Sinai, yet another major foundation of their eternal heritage is divinely laid. God turns to Moshe and commands, “And they shall make for Me a holy place, and I will dwell among them.”
The construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that will accompany the Israelites during their desert travels, is thus launched. This sanctuary serves as the precursor to the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, eventually erected in Jerusalem.
One can scarcely imagine Judaism without the concept of the Beit Hamikdash. No single symbol has been more fundamental to the Jewish people than the Temple, representing their eternal connection to God.
Just as the Mishkan serves as the focal point of the Israelite encampment during its desert wanderings, so too, the first and second Batei Mikdash each become the central feature of the corresponding Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel. Twice destroyed, the Temple lives on in the hearts and minds of Jews throughout the world who pray daily for its rebuilding.
Why does God command that the Mishkan be built in the first place?
Judaism introduces to the world the concept of a unified, omnipresent God Who can be related to and worshiped at any time and in any place. If God is omnipresent, why then does He require a “central address”?
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Adapted from one of the multiple essays on this parsha in Unlocking the Torah Text by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin.