“In the first month of the second year, on the first of the month, the Tabernacle was set up.”

-Pekudei 40:17

The sanctuary was built in the desert, and it traveled with the Jewish people in all their journeys through the wilderness. This teaches and emphasizes the important principle that it is possible to establish a place of holiness even in a desert. Thus even in a wasteland and wilderness, Jews have the ability to build a mishkan, a place for the Divine Presence to dwell among them in general, and within every individual in particular.

Just as there is a physical desert, a wilderness governed by extreme climates and all kinds of dangers, so too there is a spiritual desert which is governed by the most harmful ideas, by desolation and emptiness in matters of Torah and mitzvot. The latter may exist even in a land that is, physically speaking, a blooming garden.

The Torah thus teaches us that when we find ourselves in such a spiritual wasteland, we can-and must-establish a sanctuary. Moreover, we can-and must-carry it forward, following in the “footsteps” of the Divine Presence, as it were, until we reach the Divinely blessed Holy Land, i.e., the true and complete redemption by Moshiach!