The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was an impressive structure, constructed of acacia wood, gold, silver, copper and luxurious animal hides. The laws and discussion of the Mishkan's construction span five Torah portions, and would, at first glance, seem irrelevant to us nowadays. The Mishkan ceased to be used almost 3000 years ago with the construction of the first Temple in Jerusalem, of what consequence all these laws?

As each of us struggles with our challenges, the struggle is precious to G‑dInterwoven through the story of the Mishkan, however, are numerous ethical and moral lessons and practical advice that we continue to live by to this day. One of them pertains to the materials used in the construction project.

Almost everything in the Mishkan was made of, or plated with, gold, silver or copper. We know that the Jews left Egypt with an excess of gold – as evidenced by their making of the Golden Calf – why then did G‑d instruct that the lesser materials of silver and copper should also be used in the Mishkan's construction? Surely pure gold would have looked much more spectacular.

Recently, during a weekly discussion group in a school here in Leeds, we were talking about intermarriage. One of the boys asked me a perceptive question: "If you were sitting in my place," he asked, "and were not a rabbi with a religious upbringing, could you honestly say that you would only marry a Jewish girl?"

My response was that being born into a religious family and being a rabbi means that I face different challenges (thankfully, intermarriage isn't one of them) than those brought up in a different way. And vice versa. G‑d throws each of us the challenges that He feels that we can deal with, no more but no less.

As each of us struggles with our challenges, each on our own level, the struggle is precious to G‑d. Whether we would classify ourselves as "gold," "silver" or "copper" is irrelevant, as long as we are working in the holy field of making a home for G‑d in this world, a modern day Mishkan.

The commentaries note that the altar that was used for the sacrifices in the Temple was copper-coated. The objective of the altar was to bring forgiveness, and it was therefore fitting that it not be made of gold, a material that does not tarnish, rather copper. Copper tarnishes, but can be restored to its former state, demonstrating that just as tarnished metal can be returned to its former shining state, so too, even one who may be classified as "copper," "tarnished copper" at that, remains a shining Jew, ready and able to sparkle.