According to all that the ETERNAL had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the ETERNAL had commanded, just so they had done it. And Moses blessed them.
Countless commentators, both ancient and contemporary, have noted the literary links between the completion of the mishkan, the Israelites’ portable sanctuary-tent, described in the second part of this week’s double portion, Pekude, and the creation narrative in Genesis. The mishkan is a microcosm, a world in miniature—a modest human echo of God’s grand design.
There is, however, a significant difference between the model and the thing itself. With the mishkan, everything falls perfectly into place, exactly according to plan. Later, even in the worst of times, when the Israelites rebel and fall and fail, this space remains a beautiful, safe, and secure shelter for the Divine Presence. Would that this were true for the wider world! As Rabbi Shai Held notes: “In reality - and according to the Torah itself - the world as we find it falls far short of God's hopes and expectations. Instead of a world in which human dignity is real, we live in a world in which barbarism and cruelty all too often rule the day, in which unspeakable suffering pervades every corner of the globe. . .”
So what do we make of the mishkan in a world so often gone awry? Perhaps it is meant as a powerful and essential reminder of the way things were meant to be—and might yet become if we can learn to work together to create justice, compassion, and peace. As Professor Jon Levenson notes, the world is supposed to be just like the mishkan: "A place in which God’s holiness is palpable, unthreatened, and pervasive."
It is hard work to repair what is broken in the world—and in ourselves as well. Sometimes we need to take time to renew our vision of what we are working toward. We seek havens—sanctuaries—that remind us what we are laboring to achieve and why it matters. Our experience of God and sacredness in brief moments and small spaces can restore our dedication to the larger effort when our faith and courage might otherwise falter.
We turn—or return—to our chosen sanctuaries in space and time when we need to renew our spiritual batteries. They help us replenish our midah of strength, known in Hebrew as gevurah. Time and again, psychological studies have demonstrated that we grow best when we focus on developing our strengths rather than repairing our weaknesses. As Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz recognized a century ago, “Woe to those who are not aware of their defects, and who do not know what they must correct. But much worse off are those who do not know their strengths, and who are therefore unaware of the tools they must work with to advance themselves spiritually.”
This week, consider: What are your strengths? When and where do you find sanctuaries in space and time that replenish those strengths when they are drawn down? And how do you best employ those strengths to help bring the world as it is closer to the vision of what it might yet become?
Mussar Practice for this Week (from The Mussar Torah Commentary)
Identify people and situations where your unique strengths will bring others both help and an added measure of wholeness.