Why the Repetition?

A sizable portion of the book of Exodus is devoted to the construction of the Sanctuary built by the children of Israel. The Torah, which is usually so sparing with words, is uncharacteristically elaborate. The fifteen materials used in the Sanctuary's construction are listed no less than three times; the components and furnishings of the Sanctuary are listed eight times; and every minute detail of the Sanctuary's construction, down to the dimensions of every wall-panel and pillar and the colors in every tapestry, is spelled out not once, but twice — in the account of G‑d's instructions to Moses, and again in the account of the Sanctuary's construction.

All in all, thirteen chapters are devoted to describing how certain physical materials were fashioned into an edifice dedicated to the service of G‑d and the training of the Kohanim (priests) who were to officiate there.

The Sanctuary is the model and prototype for all subsequent homes for G‑d constructed on physical earth. So the overwhelming emphasis on its construction stage implies that in our lives, too, there is something very special about forging our personal resources into things that have the potential to serve G‑d. Making ourselves "vessels" for G‑dliness is, in a certain sense, a greater feat than actually bringing G‑dliness into our lives.

For this is where the true point of transformation lies — the transformation from self-oriented to being committed to something greater than itself. If G‑d merely desired a hospitable environment, He need not have bothered with a material world; a spiritual world could just as easily have been enlisted to serve Him. What G‑d desired was the transformation itself: the challenge and achievement of selfhood transcended and materiality redefined. This transformation and redefinition occurs in the first stage, when something material is forged into an instrument of the divine. The second stage is only a matter of actualizing an already established potential, of putting a thing to its now natural use.
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I Will Dwell Within

This week’s Torah reading contains G‑d’s command and promise: “Make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within.” The Temple was not merely a centralized location for man’s worship of G‑d, it was a place where G‑d’s presence was - and is - manifest. Although “the entire earth is full of His glory,” G‑d’s presence is not tangibly felt. He permeates all existence, but in a hidden way. The Sanctuary, by contrast, was “the place where He chose to cause His name dwell.” There was no concealment; His presence was openly manifest.

Nevertheless, the Hebrew word the verse uses for within, (besochom) is plural. Our Rabbis comment: The verse does not say: “within it,” but “within them,” within every individual man or woman.

When G‑d caused His presence to dwell in the midst of our people as a whole, He also invested Himself within every individual. Every person’s heart became a sanctuary in microcosm.

The Sanctuary accompanied the Jewish people in their journey through the desert. Wherever they camped, G‑d’s presence accompanied them.
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A Spiritual Sanctuary

The spiritual service of building a Mishkan , making a dwelling place for G‑d in this physical world, involves the three pillars upon which the world stands — Torah, divine service, and acts of loving kindness, i.e., mitzvos. Understandably, these general categories are reflected in the Mishkan.

Torah is the foundation and source of all divine service; all the ways of serving G‑d through mitzvos and good deeds are based on Torah. This is alluded to in the gift of the sockets, for they served as the foundation of the Mishkan.

Divine service — sacrificial offerings, as well as prayer established in place of offerings — is intimated in the gift of the half-shekel from which the offerings were purchased.

Finally, the terumah for the Mishkan — gifts that included all the materials from which the Mishkan was constructed — corresponds to the service of mitzvos, since these are performed with material objects.

Torah and divine service — prayer — are similar in that both entail man’s personal service. Torah unites man’s intellect with G‑d’s wisdom; prayer raises a person to G‑dliness.

Neither kind of service, however, requires involvement with physical objects. Herein lies the superior quality of the service of mitzvos, wherein the physical matter with which a mitzvah is performed, while retaining the outward characteristics of a purely physical object, in fact becomes a spiritual entity.
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Three Aspects of a Relationship

All the details discussed in Parshat Terumah have parallels in our relationship with G‑d. They are not just particulars that existed in the Sanctuary long ago, but are instead ongoing motifs relevant to our bond with G‑d. The ark in the Holy of Holies where the divine presence rested refers to the inner reaches that exist within our heart. For in each of us, there is a resting place for the divine.

Similarly, the Sanctuary and the Temple contained:

• the Menorah, the golden candelabra; this points to the potential we all possess to illuminate our surroundings with G‑dly light;

• the table, on which the showbread was placed; this points to our potential to earn a livelihood; this is also a holy endeavor deserving of a place in the Sanctuary; and

• the altar, where sacrifices were brought. Korban, Hebrew for sacrifice, relates to the word karov, meaning “close”; through the sacrifices, we draw close to G‑d.

Although we no longer have the Sanctuary built by Moses, nor the Temple in Jerusalem, the sanctuary in every Jewish heart remains. The home for G‑d within us is an inseparable element of our existence.
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Constant Connection

“And they shall build for me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within them.” The Sages explain: “within them” – within the heart of every single Jew. How does the main function of the Temple, the sacrificial service, make man’s heart ready to receive G‑d? The blood and fat of the sacrifice represent the preoccupations and pleasures of man’s heart. The awareness of what his sacrifice represents sensitizes him to refocus and dedicate his entire being towards G‑d: