I have a confession to make. This week I was going through the parsha and I was bored. I found myself reading quickly without really paying attention. There were lots of details about the construction of the Mishkan and the objects found inside. This beam has to be exactly this length, this object has to have this many knobs, the table is arranged in this particular order, etc. Granted, there was a nice Rashi here and there about being tznious or the context of the parsha; yet, as someone who likes to see the “big picture” I felt like I was being drowned in meticulous details.
However, when I dove into the miforshim, the parsha truly became alive. The Rambam explains how the Mishkan was G-d’s reaction to the Jewish people’s inner urge to do avodah zara. Rav Hirsh explicates how every detail of the Mishkan is symbolic of man’s actions. The Ramban argues with Rashi about the chronological flow of this parsha with regard to the Golden Calf, and the theological consequences of each philosophical approach. The Ramban and other Kabbalists go into detail about how each aspect of the Mishkan corresponds to a part of the physical universe as well as a part of the individual. These insights from the Oral Torah that illuminated every detail of the Mishkan’s construction truly blew me away.
The thing I realized this week is that this parsha is really the epitome of the Jewish attitude toward a life of meaning. Everyone knows that for complicated things in the physical world to work properly, all the pieces have to fit perfectly in order. If someone puts together a camera or a computer, every piece has to be perfectly aligned, down to the tedious details. However, often we don’t realize this to be true as well for our spirituality. We think, “I’ll just do my own thing and feel spiritual” or even worse, once a person is connected to a Torah lifestyle it is all too easy to fall into a routine and turn off the brain. We can think, “I doven three times a day, I learn Torah, what I do is enough. I don’t need to always think about what I am dovening for or critically analyze what I am learning.” This mindset is tragic, and the ideas of this parsha come to combat this way of thinking. Although it might seem like a spiritually fulfilling life is tedious in its observance of every single detail, we must look deeper. Before we learn Torah, we should think about why we are doing what we are doing. As we doven, we should meditate on the words we are saying. When we do mitzvahs, we should think about what our actions are accomplishing in our lives and for others. It is preciously in the carefulness of observing the laws and thinking deeply about the deeper significance of everything we do that leads to a truly fulfilling spiritual life. This idea, to me, is what makes the intricate construction of the Mishkan still relevant to this day.