Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, "A Place for God to Dwell"
Pinchas H. Peli wrote of the command to bring gifts for the sanctuary:
"Besides the immediate purpose of the campaign, to collect materials for the building of a sanctuary, it also serves an educational purpose: to convert the people from passive participants in their relationship with the Lord, as constant recipients of His gifts, into active partners.
"The in-dwelling of God among the people cannot take place as long as the people are passive and do nothing to help bring the sacred into the world. "And let them make me a sanctuary—that I may dwell among them." My dwelling among them is on the condition that they make the sanctuary. . . . Man must start out on the path towards God . . . in order for God to meet him half-way as his partner in the act of sanctification."
As magnificent as some of our sanctuaries are, and as inspiring as our places of worship are, we still understand that it is not the place where we find God that is of primary importance. The physical space is but one tool, one means of reaching the sacred. We all know people who claim that they find God in nature rather than within the walls of any building. Our tradition recognizes this as well, especially in the alternate reading of a verse from Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel, a 19th Century commentator). He chose to read v'shachanti b'tocham, "I will dwell among them" as "I will dwell within them." He wrote: ". . . in them, the people, not in it, the sanctuary. We are each to build a Tabernacle in our own heart for God to dwell in."2
Rabbi Irwin A. Zeplowitz, "The Color Purple . . . And Blue . . . And Red"
This week's parashah seems, at first glance, to be a rather pedantic listing of the items needed for the construction of the Mishkan . At one level of understanding, it may simply be what it appears to be—specifically, a"shopping list" of items sought from donors. But could there be a purpose in specifying the particular kind of wood, varieties of precious metals, and colors of yarn?
The first items sought are"gold, silver, and copper" (Exodus 25:3). Rashi says that gold and copper were voluntary donations but that silver was an obligatory gift. Other classic commentators, however, indicate that the reason for the order is to allow those at every level of financial means to give an appropriate level of support. The word"offering" is made in the singular ( V'zot hat'rumah ,“And this is the offering") to teach that whether one gives much or little, as long one's heart is directed to heaven, it is considered the same (see Rabbi Baruch Abba Rakovsky on Exodus 25:3, in Itturei Torah, vol. 2, compiled by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg [Tel Aviv: Yavneh Publishing House, 1995], p. 207). This idea of the intention of giving being critical and of each person donating according to his or her means is a theme that dominates Jewish thought. This concept is even reflected in synagogue architecture. In the Rama synagogue in Kazmierz (Krakow), Poland, there is a slot for tzedakah at the door that opens into the sanctuary. Above the slot are the words"gold, silver, and copper," a not too subtle reminder that a donation of any size is appreciated.