As for the tabernacle, make [ta-aseh] it of ten strips of cloth; make these of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, and crimson yards, with a design of cherubim worked into them….Five of the cloths shall be joined to one another. Make loops of blue wool…make fifty loops on one cloth, and fifty loops on the edge…And make fifty gold clasps, and couple the cloths to one another with the claps, so that the tabernacle becomes one whole. — Exodus/Shemot 26:1-5
Neshama Leibowitz* notes that the verb “to make,” ayin-sin-heh, appears 200 times in the tabernacle instructions, while it appears seven times in Breishit. Her essay, “Make Me a Sanctuary to Dwell In,” explores correspondences between human and divine “making.” She builds on the work of Martin Buber and Umberto Cassuto* who also analyze parallels between the creation story and the building of the tabernacle. As in Breishit, “finishing,” “seeing” and “blessing” figure prominently as the work is carried out — see next week’s portion, Tetzaveh.
Karen Armstrong summarizes neatly:
…At each stage, Moses “saw all the work” and “blessed” the people, just as [YHVH] had “seen” all he had made and “blessed” it at the end of each day of creation….they could build a temple in the wilderness of exile that brought order to their dislocated lives. This would restore them to the intimacy of Eden, because an Israelite temple symbolized the original harmony before adam [earthling or human] had ruined the world. — The Case for God (NY: Knopf, 2009). pp.43-44
The creation-tabernacle connection is a great path to explore. Armstrong’s work on the historical (even pre-historical) evolution of religious thought and action presents a related path.
* For complete citations and more information about these commentators, please see Source Materials.
Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.