Creating Space for God

This week, as we reach the very end of the book of Shemot, we read the fourth and fifth of the five parshiot that deal with the construction of the mishkan. Of the 54 parshiot in the Torah, nearly 10% of them deal with our building this tabernacle in the desert! Why is our construction of the mishkan so important that we spend so much time on its details?

This week, as we reach the very end of the book of Shemot, we read the fourth and fifth of the five parshiot that deal with the construction of the mishkan. Of the 54 parshiot in the Torah, nearly 10% of them deal with our building this tabernacle in the desert! Why is our construction of the mishkan so important that we spend so much time on its details?

Before we built the mishkan, our experience of God had been miraculous and supernatural. After the Exodus from Egypt and crossing the sea, we witnessed God’s revelation at Sinai where we heard sights and saw sounds. All of the Israelites witnessed and experience God’s presence!

In our own lives, we may have had intense spiritual experiences or times we felt particularly close to God. But after these moments pass we are left with the same challenge as our ancestors at Sinai: How do we maintain our connection with God? How do we keep an awareness of God’s presence in our lives all the time? How can we stay inspired and engaged while dealing with our mundane everyday lives?

The Torah focuses so much on the mishkan to teach us the importance of making space for God. The root of the word mishkan is the Hebrew word for “neighbor” — the mishkan is that which allowed the Israelites to feel God’s presence. Constructing time and space for encounters with God that are integrated into our lives is what turns revelation into a lasting relationship.

We have a fundamental human need to create spaces and experiences where we can connect or reconnect with the Divine. For some of us, that might be synagogue. For others, it might be camp. For the ancient Israelites, it was the mishkan, where God’s presence literally dwelled among them.

Questions for the Shabbat Table:

  • What are the places in your life that help you connect with God?
  • Why do you think the ancient Israelites desired a physical space set aside and dedicated to connecting with God?

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