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Acolytes and Altar Guild members, rejoice!  We have now gotten to the part of Exodus that deals with liturgy, describing all of the wonderful implementa of the tabernacle with glittering adjectives (mostly because everything is gold plated).  Daniel and Karl let their inner liturgists off the leash and get so metaphysical that it’s almost psychedelic.

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Exodus 25

Gold, silver and copper . . . (25:3–7)

(Midrash HaGadol) The materials donated for the Mishkan correspond to the components of the human being. “Gold” is the soul; “silver,” the body; “copper,” the voice; “blue,” the veins; “purple,” the flesh; “red,” the blood; “flax,” the intestines; “goat hair,” the hair; “rams’ skins dyed red,” the skin of the face; “tachash skins,” the scalp; “shittim wood,” the bones; “oil for lighting,” the eyes; “spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense,” the nose, mouth and palate; “shoham stones and gemstones for setting,” the kidneys and the heart.


Rabbi Shmuel said: The materials donated for the Mishkan correspond to the heavens. “Gold” is the sun; “silver,” the moon; “copper,” the western horizon at sunset; “blue,” the sky; “purple,” the clouds; “red,” the rainbow; “flax,” the seraphim; “goat,” the constellation of Capricorn; “rams’ skins dyed red,” thunder; “tachash skins,” lightning; “shittim wood,” shooting stars; “oil for lighting,” the seven planets; “spices for the anointing oil and for the incense,” dew and rain; “shoham stones and gemstones for setting”—hail and snow. Said G‑d: “My dwelling is in the heavens; if you make Me a Sanctuary on earth, I shall dwell in it.”

They shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amidst them (25:8)

(Midrash Tanchuma, Naso 16)

G‑d desired a dwelling place in the lower realms.


(Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) This is what man is all about; this is the purpose of his creation and of the creation of all the worlds, higher and lower—that there be made for G‑d a dwelling in the lower realms.


(Shaloh) The verse does not say “and I will dwell within it,” but “and I will dwell within them”—within each and every one of them.


(Midrash Rabbah) There was once a king who had an only daughter, and one of the kings came and married her. When her husband wished to return to his country, her father said to him: “My daughter, whose hand I have given you, is my only child; I cannot part with her. Neither can I say to you, ‘Do not take her,’ for she is your wife. This one favor, however, I ask of you: wherever you go to live, prepare a chamber for me that I may dwell with you, for I cannot leave my daughter.”

In the same way, G‑d said to Israel: “I have given you the Torah. I cannot part with her, and I also cannot tell you not to take her. But this I request of you: wherever you go, make for Me a house wherein I may dwell.”

They shall make the ark . . . two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height (25:10)

(Rabbi Natan Adler) The measurements of the ark were all in fractions, indicating that to become a vessel for Torah, a person must first “break” his ego.

You shall overlay [the ark] with pure gold, inside and outside (25:11)

(Talmud, Yoma 72b) Any Torah scholar whose interior is not like his exterior is no Torah scholar.

The cherubim shall stretch out their wings on high . . . and their faces shall look one to another (25:20)

(Talmud, Bava Batra 99a) But in another verse (II Chronicles 3:13) it says, “They faced [the walls of] the room”? When the people of Israel fulfilled G‑d’s will, the cherubim would face each other; and when the people of Israel did not fulfill G‑d’s will, the cherubim would face the walls of the room.

Make for it a rim of gold round about (25:24)

(Talmud, Yoma 72b) There were three crowns: that of the altar, that of the ark and that of the table. The one of the altar (representing the priesthood), Aaron deserved, and he received it. The one of the table (representing the wealth of royalty), David deserved and received. The one of the ark (representing the Torah) is still available, and whosoever wants to take it may come and take it.

You shall set showbread upon the table before Me always (25:30)

(Zohar 2:153b) The table stood in the Tabernacle, and there rested upon it a blessing from Above, and from it issued nourishment to the whole world. Not for a moment was that table to remain empty, since blessing does not rest upon an empty place. Therefore the showbread had always to be renewed upon it each Sabbath, in order that the blessing from Above might always rest upon it, and that food and blessing, because of it, might emanate from that table to all the tables of the world.


So too should every man’s table [have bread on it] when he says grace after meals: in order that the blessing from Above should rest upon it, it must not be empty.