The second half of the book of Exodus presents a dramatic shift from the first half of the book. Until this point, G‑d was the active member in the relationship with the Jewish people. G‑d brought the Ten Plagues, liberated the Jews from Egypt, split the sea, spoke the Ten Commandments and dictated Jewish civil law, while the Jews were passive recipients of all that G‑d was doing. Finally, in the second half of the book, the Jewish people were called upon to take the initiative and build a home for G‑d.

The sages teach that the commandment to construct a home for G‑d includes the The detailed descriptions of the Temple have a spiritual equivalence directive to construct a figurative home for G‑d within every person. From this perspective, the detailed descriptions of the Temple and its furniture, which comprise almost five portions in the Torah, have a spiritual equivalence within ourselves.

The Sanctuary was built of three components. The walls were made of ten-cubit-tall wooden beams, the beams were supported by silver sockets, and the roof was composed of coverings made of wool and animal skins. To build the figurative Temple within ourselves, we need to find the beams, coverings and sockets within our soul and dedicate them to the service of G‑d.

The Kabbalists explain that the ten-cubit beams represent the ten faculties, three intellectual and seven emotional, within every human soul.

The foundation of the entire structure was the silver sockets into which the beams were inserted. The spiritual equivalent of the sockets, the foundation of the soul’s structure, is the capacity to be committed and devoted to someone or something.

The curtains that served as the roof of the Tabernacle, covering the entire structure, represent a person’s will and capacity for pleasure, referred to by the Kabbalists as the “encompassing powers of the soul.” Will and pleasure affect and inspire all of the faculties. The sages teach us that “a person should always study where his heart desires,” because the encompassing power of will triggers and awakens the specific power of understanding.

Understanding that the Temple is a symbol for the human soul explains the commandment that the Jewish people donate the materials necessary to construct the Sanctuary. In this week’s Parshah, the Torah tells us that each individual donated both to the construction of the walls and to the covering of the Sanctuary in the amount they chose, according to their heart’s desire:

The L‑rd spoke to Moses saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering.”1

Yet there was another form of donation, specifically designated for the silver sockets, where everybody was required to donate an equal amount:

This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel. . . . The rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give no less than half a shekel.2

There were two forms of donations, one with an equal, set amount for each We are all equal in our capacity to devote ourselves to G‑dperson to donate, and another that was open-ended, each person donating according to his heart’s desire. There are aspects where all are equal, and other aspects where each person is unique and has a distinctive contribution to make. When it comes to the specific faculties of the soul—intelligence, emotion, wisdom, kindness, willpower—each of us is unique. Thus the contribution to create the structure is individualized. Yet the foundation of the structure, the foundation of the relationship with G‑d, the power of devotion and commitment, is the same for everyone. We all are equal in our capacity to devote ourselves to G‑d, yet the nature of our devotion and relationship is based on our own specific personality and is therefore unique to each individual.3