The Torah portions at this time of the year are a puzzle to many people. In comparison to other sidrot which are so fast-moving and dramatic, here we have detailed technical rules about how to plan and construct the Tabernacle – its design and decor, appurtenances and accoutrements, not the slightest thing left to chance.
Where is the grand sweep of ideas and ethics that is so impressive in other parts of the Torah?
There must be an answer, and it seems to be in the sentence, “Let them make Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8).
So much of the Torah teaches us Imitatio Dei, emulating the Divine. As God is holy, we emulate Him by trying to be holy (Lev. 19:2). As He asks for a dwelling-place on earth, so do human beings need earthly dwelling-places. Human dwelling-places will collapse unless they are sturdily built and contain all we need for daily living: all the more so with God’s Sanctuary.
It is not that He Himself is made any greater by the curtains and water basins of the Tabernacle, but since the curtains symbolise distinctions and the water basins represent purity, our care in constructing these and the other items in the edifice enables Him to teach us how to live.
The verse we have quoted says, not “I will dwell in it” (the building) but “in them” (the builders). By making Him a Tabernacle we bring His teachings and tenets into our lives.