Building a Home
The final chapters of Shemot focus on the construction of the Mishkan or Tabernacle. Instead of the Jewish people turning to idolatry, as they did by making the Golden Calf, the Mishkan provided the means for the Shechinah (or Divine Presence) to dwell among B’nai Yisrael until the Temple was built. The function of Mishkan was central to the nation. It was intended to be the place where every Jew would bring their offerings to achieve spiritual elevation.
Parashat Terumah goes on to explain how the Mishkan should be built. Each person gave a gift of gold, silver, copper, blue, purple, crimson yarns, fine linen, goat’s hair, ram skins, Tachash skins, acacia wood, oil, spices, and Shoham stones (Shemot 1-8).
וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר
דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרֽוּמָתִֽי
וְזֹאת֙ הַתְּרוּמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּקְח֖וּ מֵֽאִתָּ֑ם זָהָ֥ב וָכֶ֖סֶף וּנְחֽשֶׁת
וּתְכֵ֧לֶת וְאַרְגָּמָ֛ן וְתוֹלַ֥עַת שָׁנִ֖י וְשֵׁ֥שׁ וְעִזִּֽים
וְעֹרֹ֨ת אֵילִ֧ם מְאָדָּמִ֛ים וְעֹרֹ֥ת תְּחָשִׁ֖ים וַֽעֲצֵ֥י שִׁטִּֽים
שֶׁ֖מֶן לַמָּאֹ֑ר בְּשָׂמִים֙ לְשֶׁ֣מֶן הַמִּשְׁחָ֔ה וְלִקְטֹ֖רֶת הַסַּמִּֽים
אַבְנֵי־שֹׁ֕הַם וְאַבְנֵ֖י מִלֻּאִ֑ים לָֽאֵפֹ֖ד וְלַחֽשֶׁן
וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָֽׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם
The Mishkan would be built first, and would house the Ark. The wooden Ark (Aron) was to be covered with gold inside and out. First, the testimonial tablets had to be placed inside the Ark. Next, the table was placed within the inner chamber of the Mishkan. Finally, the Golden Menorah was placed in the outer chamber. The Mishkan and the symbols within represented the Written and Oral Torah that Hashem gave to us at Har Sinai.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks quotes the Rambam stating that “"The construction of the Sanctuary was fundamentally important because it gave the Israelites the chance to give back to God. Later Jewish law recognised that giving is an integral part of human dignity when they made the remarkable ruling that even a poor person completely dependent on charity is still obliged to give charity." “[ Hilchot Shekalim 1:1, Mattenot Ani’im 7:5.] Rabbi Sacks adds “To be in a situation where you can only receive, not give, is to lack human dignity.”
According to the Ramban, in the introduction to Shemot, building the Mishkan brought The Shechinah (G-d’s presence) into the world, it was also a replication of Sinai, and brought B’nai Yisrael back to the level they had in the days of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.
How did the building of the Mishkan bring B’nai Yisrael to the level of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov? Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz explains that there were three miracles of Sarah Imenu’s tent which parallel the Mishkan. The first miracle was the blessing in her bread which satiated people for a very long time. The second was the candle that she lit in honor of Shabbat which would stay lit all week. The third was the Divine Cloud of Glory over the tent that symbolized the Shechinah. The Lechem HaPanim, (showbread), paralleled the bread that Sarah baked. They were baked before Shabbat and set on the table each week and were still fresh the next week. There was always one candle that stayed lit in the Menorah which paralleled the candle that Sarah lit in honor of Shabbat. The candle never went out by itself. The Cloud of Glory over the Mishkan paralleled the Cloud of Glory over the tent. He adds that the Mishkan is a “replication of the Jewish home idealized by Avraham and Sarah. The Mishkan is a reminder of what we’re capable of achieving in our home.” The marital union is very special which is why the first institution we build in a Jewish community is a Mikvah (ritual bath).
One of the benefits of the past two years, we’ve realized how important the family unit is. It is our duty to relate to G-d in our homes. It’s interesting to note that a major thing that brings people to Torah is seeing the beauty of the Jewish family and seeing what happens in the Jewish home.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin says that there are three areas that parents must teach their children which cannot be outsourced: male/female relationships, the ways of money and how it works, and teaching about G-d. In Proverbs it says חֲנֹ֣ךְ לַ֖נַּעַר עַל־פִּ֣י דַרְכּ֑וֹ גַּ֥ם כִּֽי־יַ֜זְקִ֗ין לֹֽא־יָס֥וּר מִמֶּֽנָּה which Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch translates this as educate the lad according to his path then he will not depart from it even in old age (Proverbs 22:6). In Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s collection of writings on Jewish education he writes “חֲנֹ֣ךְ is the training to equip our youth for the solemn tasks of their future lives as adults, was regarded as the essence of all education.” Rabbi Hirsch adds “fulfillment of this unique vocation necessitated the establishment of a home of one’s own, an independent household supported by an occupation that was respectable, morally untarnished and capable of making a contribution to the public welfare.”
In our society the cost of living is increasing which has caused many parents to outsource various responsibilities to schools because both parents must work. Rabbi Daniel Lapin uses the German word zeitgeist of our time is the attack on the family and who is in control of our children. Let me preface this by saying that there are incredible educators out there! We need only look at the numbers of single parent households and the attacks on the traditional family structure. Today, unlike in the past, parents shuffle their children to their bus stops or to school, work all day, and come home exhausted, then proceed to shuffle their children to their various activities which leaves little time for training their children for their future lives as adults. The school system, unfortunately, was not designed with that goal in mind. Some parents send their children to private schools which do a better job at preparing children for the future, while many other parents do not have this ability, therefore, public school is their only option. For a great resource on the history of the education system, I’d recommend reading A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille.
One of my favorite podcasts is The Wellness Mama podcast. Recently, she interviewed Matt Beaudreau, founder and President of Acton Academy. You can listen to it here: Wellness Mama-Matt Beaudreau. I’m in a few homeschooling groups and I’ve noticed that homeschooling has grown exponentially over the past several years. Parents want to have more of a say in their children’s education. There are things taught in public schools today that parents would prefer their children not learn. For example, Ty Smith from Illinois spoke in front of his school board slamming Critical Race Theory. There’s also the sense of entitlement, fear of failure, lack of work ethic, lack of manners, and lack of critical thinking. To put it simply, many people are not taught how to be a good person and that begins in the home.
As we move forward, let’s put our focus back on the family unit. How different would our world be? Let’s become the parents we need to be and model for our children the work it takes to become good people. Instead of depending on others to teach our children the way of the world, let’s do it ourselves. “By dividing the tasks of running the home between man and woman and entrusting the physical, spiritual, and moral care of the child to two parents, Divine Providence very likely intended to impress upon the minds of men how well the moral objectives of mankind could be served by dividing the work to be done in this regard between two individuals, each with his own distinct personality and abilities.” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch