Faces of Faith: The sacred’s in the details
We don’t usually think of God as an interior decorator. An architect, maybe . . . think back to the creation of the world in Genesis . . . but not, say, a designer of curtains.
As I write this, our weekly reading from Torah (The Five Books of
Moses) is all about the creation of the Mishkan, that portable sanctuary that travelled with the Israelites in the desert.
God asks the Israelites to bring gold, wood, jewels, fine linens, and yarns to use in the construction of the Mishkan. God specifies that within the Mishkan, the Israelites should create sacred furniture and furnishings: an altar, a menorah, dividing curtains, a special table, and golden angels.
An obvious question is “Why is God so concerned with the minutiae of this sacred space”
The last time we read of God dictating such details, down to the every inch (or cubit . . .) of measurement, was in Genesis 6, with the building of Noah’s ark.
Noah’s ark, of course, was necessary to save a remnant of humanity and begin the world anew.
The creation of the Mishkan was not about physically saving the Israelites.
But it was about spiritual salvation. As with Noah and his family, the Israelite’s world was beginning again, but in a different non-literal and spiritual way. In Egypt, the Israelites were not free to worship their God.
Not only were they overwhelmed by the labor of oppression, but rabbinic commentary maintains that they were subject to coercive pressure to assimilate to Egyptian gods and worship.
So just as God created a safe space for them, by redeeming them from Egypt, God now expects that this people will create a sacred space for divine Presence.
Freedom from Pharaoh is to become responsibility toward God. And so God commands them, “Let them build me a sanctuary that I may dwell in them.” (Exodus 25.8)
And that sanctuary requires exacting and demanding artistry.
But still . . . does God really have to directly order up every teeny-tiny detail?
Albert Einstein said, “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.”
Einstein, I think, answers my question.
God does not need structure and design. We do. By way of the Mishkan we dimly glimpse the Eternal Presence.
And our portion calls us to notice that this is so for even the smallest detail.
And that can be true in our daily lives. There is wonder in the construction of an avocado. There is gratitude in the warmth of a fuzzy, comfortable sweatshirt.
There is joy in the first taste from a bottle of water.
Divine Presence is in the tiny details all around us.
The sacred task our challenge as people of faith is to discern it.
-Rabbi Myra Soifer, Temple Bat Yam