The last of the Parshiyos about the geulah has arrived! This week is very much a climax to the entire drama of the exodus.
Surprisingly it doesn't say anything at all about the slavery, the miracles of the plagues, the sea splitting or the revelation at Mount Sinai. In fact, when you keep yourself very committed to not going past the surface, it's hard to fathom why this chapter is here to begin with. It narrates the way G-d commanded the Jews to build Him a sanctuary in the desert. Each detail is presented with great care and specificity. Which metals are to be used, what kind of materials for the hangings, how big, how many are the core questions that are answered throughout the Parshah. It leaves you wondering. The Jews were in the desert for only forty years. Even after they entered Israel, the sanctuary that we learn about in such detail was never meant to last forever. The Bais HaMikdash, as was planned all along replaced it.
The key to the Parshah is the phrase, "Make Me a sanctuary, and I will live in you". The sentence doesn't end the way you would expect it to end, "and I will live in it". The sanctuary is an experiential map of how to bring G-d into your life. Each detail reflects a specific way to redefine yourself. This is why it is the climax of the exodus. We didn't get out of Egypt in order to be a nation like any other nation. We experienced miracle after miracle to open our hearts and minds to the Torah, and from that point onward, to actualizing the Torah by letting it touch every aspect of our lives.
The Parshah begins by telling us to bring Trumah. The word is used today to mean contribution or donation. It's literal meaning is to uplift or exalt. What that is telling you is that the real world is there in front of you to exalt, uplift and "recreate" in a certain sense. Take work for instance. I surveyed the girls in my class who had worked in the real world before entering Neve. One girl was a building manager, another an assistant producer, another was a corporate trainer, and the final one was involved in health care. I asked them one question; "Who is your boss working for". The building manager was absolutely clear. He worked for himself-his tenants were a mean towards an end. The assistant producer felt the same was, her boss was there to actualize his creative potentials. Other people were incidental to that goal. The same held true for the others. None of their employers is evil or abusive in any way. They are however totally unaware of the possibility of being uplifted by the way you relate to your work, and even less aware of the potential to uplift the lives of the people who they see every day, or the materials that they work with continually. The first things that we were told to uplift, is gold silver and copper. These metals are often the basis of the currency that we use.
The secular world is not a place that you can easily use as a vehicle to uplift yourself enough to become a sanctuary to G-d. You can see things differently. YOU have to do the uplifting. This is what liberation and Matan Torah is all about. You have the ability not only to not be destroyed by the day-to-day challenges that you face, you can redefine them and leave everyone you encounter higher than they were when they met you. Here's what this looks like when this happens.
I will never forget my Shabbos at Rabbi Yuden's community. My friend drove me to his home a short time before Shabbos. I knew that she still faced a longish drive back to Brooklyn, and that sunset waits for no one. When I saw the house, I said, "Just drop me off now. Don't wait to see me in" and she drove away. I knocked at the door and an African American man answered. The one thing I knew was that this could not be Rabbi Yuden. I put a Colgate smile on my face, to disguise what was going on the inside. "Where can I go for Shabbos? This is the wrong address. Who do I know in the area. No one!" I asked him, "Do you happen to know where Rabbi Yuden lives?" "Here" He replied, and opened the door wider. I reluctantly entered, and the real Rabbi Yuden soon appeared. He introduced me to his wife, who showed me to my room. I had no way of interpreting what had happened, so I contented myself with getting ready for Shabbos by eating the snacks that they had left for me. As things turned out, the man was a prospective convert. He met Rabbi Yuden when he worked as the shul's custodian. He was so moved by the rabbi's integrity, the truth of his divrei Torah, and his personal treasury of exemplary middos that he wanted to belong to the same "club" and decided to become a Jew.
This is what uplifting yourself and your environment looks like. The sanctuary was divided into sections. The innermost section held the Aron, where the tablets of the law were. There was a partition leading to an outer chamber where there was a menorah, the sacred table, and the incense alter. Each of these represent an aspect of each of us, the mind (the tablets of the law contained within the aron), the heart (the menorah) and the material aspects of life. This isn't even the tip of the iceberg; there are far more numerous and more profound levels of experiential symbolism for each vessel. The details of the Parshah tell you how to unlock the mystery of their use.
Let's say (I know that this is unlikely) that you don't follow the advice that I am now offering; learn the entire Parshah with Rav Hirsh's commentary so that you can learn the "map" of life. The Parshah still has relevance. If nothing else, you learn that relationship is a two-way street. G-d showed us miracles and gave us the Torah. It is now up to you to use the inspiration of the miracles and the laws of the Torah to change yourself, the people you see daily, and the physical world around you.
All the best,