Posted on March 23, 2011
by Charlene Thrope
Parashat Terumah focuses solely on instructions for building the mishkan, a building that consists of three sections – the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies – and contains an ark that will hold the tablets of the Ten Commandments. God tells Moses all of the materials, from crimson yarn to dolphin skins, needed to build the mishkan, and gives explicit building instructions, complete with exact measurements.
Although all of this detail may seem unnecessary now that the mishkan no longer exists, it teaches us the importance of having a holy place. God tells Moshe, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8). Because the mishkan was built for the purpose of creating a space for God, God’s presence is almost tangible. However, God does not actually dwell in the mishkan – God dwells among the people.
Today, each synagogue serves as its own mishkan – a physical place set apart to be holy. We could pray by ourselves, but instead, we choose to congregate in a special location and to form a community. God is present in a beautiful synagogue, but God is just as present in a small house where a local minyan meets. The community inside the building, not the building itself, is where God truly dwells.