|Questions and Concepts for Parsha Vayakhal-Pekudi
The book of Exodus ends with the details of the construction of the Tabernacle. This is actually one of the "deepest" portions of Scripture, as the layout of this structure (as well as Solomon's Temple) and its implements, and the systematic building of the structure, holds a key to understanding God and His creation. The Hebrew sages teach that study of the Ezekiel's Temple (the Millennial Temple) is considered to be the same as performing the mitzvoth associated with the Temple if it were standing.
Everything connected to the Tabernacle/Temple alludes to the mystery of God's unity (which is the theme of the revelation on Mount Sinai) as well as to the rectification of our souls and the world. The Aramaic word for this process is "tikkun" which also means "warfare." This is something to consider when reading such passages in the New Testament as Ephesians chapter 6. The "weapons of war" that Paul writes of are not those of a soldier (as is usually depicted) but those of a Priest.
Here again in this Parsha, we see the Sabbath in a central role, leading into the construction of the Tabernacle. In 35:5 we hear God telling Moses to instruct those "whose heart motivates them" - thus showing us that what God wants is not so much our possessions, but our desire to be one with Him.
The existence of the Tabernacle (and later Temple) has both positive and negative connotations to it. The fact that Israel was able to construct a "dwelling place" for the God of the universe to "reside" in the physical realm is certainly an awesome achievement, but also a sad reminder that we lack the intimate relationship we once had at the time of the Garden of Eden. Not only did God have to "reside" in the limited space of the Tabernacle, He would also only make "appearance" at certain times. (The Tabernacle was also called the "tent of the times of meeting.") As we see in the book of Revelation, following the millennial Kingdom of Messiah (a time of further rectification) there comes the Olam Haba (World to Come) where there is no longer a need for a "meeting place" or "meeting time."
The Ark of the Covenant has a number of mysterious aspects to it. One is obvious (with the help of a few calculations). The rings used to pass the staves through would not be able to support the weight of the objects contained within the Ark -- they should have snapped off immediately. Another, more fascinating mystery, comes from tradition. The distance between the walls of the Holy of Holies was equal to the sum of the distance between each wall and the side of the Ark. In other words, the Ark took up no physical space. Another mystical aspect was what happened if any Hebrew directly touched the ark - they would die. However when the Philistines later captured and touched it, they would not die. Then again, their possession of the Ark (which they placed in their temple of Dagon) brought nothing but curses upon them.
The presence of God that would cover the Tent of Meeting and fill the Tabernacle was known as the Shekinah in Hebraic literature. In second Temple times (the days of Yeshua) the term Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) was often used to describe the same thing (as found in the New Testament).
The Shekinah would come and go at "random" intervals - remaining at a given spot anywhere from days to months at a time. (These intervals also have a mystical meaning to them.) The number of journeys made from the time of the initial construction to the arrival in the Land of Israel was forty-two. This is a number with deep mystical significance, regarding the "coming together" of heaven and earth and "unification of the Name of God, i.e., Zechariah 14:9. (See our notes on the two sets of 42 months mentioned in the book of Revelation.)
Here is a teaching on this subject from an Orthodox source:
Exodus begins with "disunity" - God is distanced from His people who are in Egypt, called "Mitzrayim" in Hebrew, meaning "a place of confinement." There is no opportunity to serve God in Egypt, to draw close to Him, to unify His Name, or to bring tikkun. The end of Exodus has God's presence among His people who are now free to serve Him and accomplish their destiny. Their is a higher degree of "unification" of the Name of God, but still far short of what will occur at the time of Messiah.
Exodus may be read at many levels - from a simple story to one with many hidden aspects linked to verses and ideas throughout the Tenakh. This may help to explain why Jewish children begin their Torah learning with Leviticus and end with Exodus.
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