God spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts;
There are gifts that we give that are tangible. We may send contributions to local, national and international causes, agencies and institutions. We might save clothing, books, toys, and other items to be donated to local agencies that will then resell those items or give them to people in need. Other gifts are intangible. We may volunteer for local organizations that offer support for children or senior citizens or for people of all ages. Our assistance may take the form of just being present and by showing support and kindness. Or, we may be called upon to be an advocate, to enable others to clearly see that person’s needs.
You shall accept gifts for Me from all those whose hearts so moves them.
The gifts were not to be brought reluctantly or begrudgingly. Each person bringing something for the creation of the Tabernacle, the worship space for the Israelites, was called upon to offer something willingly and sincerely. In the same way, our gifts from the creativity of our minds and the work of our hands need to come from the heart.
And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper;
The closer the object was to the innermost part of Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, the more valuable the metal that was used. In fact, all of these metals were valuable, and the one missing from the list is iron. Iron was used more for weapons, making it incompatible with the spiritual ends the sanctuary was intended to serve.
Blue, purple and crimson yarns, and fine linen, goat’s hair, tanned ram skins, dolphin skins.
The yarns and linen described were made using rare and expense dyes. Some may object to the widespread use of animal skins in the ancient world. What is important is that all of the furnishings of the Tabernacle, regardless of their source, we made with extensive labor and great care.
Acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense.
These gifts signify the light that would burn in the Tabernacle to signify faith, and the spices that would create the aromas that would be associated with this holy space. These items would establish the sanctity of the Tabernacle, as every kind act that we do is sacred in its own way.
Stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
Some of the stones were to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The stones had different colors, but all together they signified the entire people. The types of gifts that we give our community may be different, but it takes all of our abilities, strengths, talents and contributions to enrich our community.
And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.
The passage does not say that God would dwell “in it,” in the Tabernacle, but “among them” – with the people. The word that means “dwell” in this verse does not have the meaning of God dwelling permanently in the sanctuary, because God cannot be found only in one place. It means that the Tabernacle and its rituals would make God’s presence seem real to the people, so that they would think about God in their hearts and minds after the rituals were over.
Exactly as I show you – the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings – so shall you make it.
Today, the pattern of a Jewish sanctuary takes on many different forms. No two sanctuaries look exactly alike. Yet, each one has an eternal light, an ark, windows, a menorah and other symbols of our tradition and faith. The gifts that we give may look different on the surface, but they are essentially the same, because they all offer support, substance and enrichment to our community.
Praised are You, Eternal God, Ruler of the Universe, who makes us holy with commandments and commands us to occupy ourselves with the needs of the community.