In this week’s Parashah, the Torah returns to its extensive list of Halachot after having deviated for a small time to depict the incident of and reaction to the Chet HaEigel. When the Torah does so, it returns to the list of commandments by starting off with the Halachot of the Mishkan. The Torah describes the dyes which are would be required, the different oils, and the other essential factors required in order to build the Mishkan, all in great detail. When examining the Parashah, the immediate question one can ask relates to the order in which the Mitzvot were listed. Of all of the Mitzvot which the Torah could have commanded immediately after one of the biggest sins in Tanach, why would the Torah command us to build the Mishkan?
A possible answer to this question is offered by the Abarbanel. The Abarbanel states that when Moshe came down from Har Sinai with the good news that Hashem had forgiven Bnei Yisrael for their sin of the Eigel HaZahav, the Jewish people were ecstatic. Therefore, Moshe saw fit to proceed to explain to them the different intricacies of the Mishkan, as this was the most recent commandment they had received before Moshe proceeded up to Har Sinai. (It is important to note that the Abarbanel subscribes to the opinion of the Ramban who believes that Bnei Yisrael received the Mitzvah of building the Mishkan prior to Chet HaEigel, an opinion which is disputed by Rashi who says that we were commanded this mitzvah only after the Chet.)The Abarbanel explains that Moshe did this because Hashem already wanted Bnei Yisrael to build the Mikdash prior to the sin; now, with the second Luchot, Bnei Yisrael had created a binding contract, a Brit, in which they agreed to follow the ways of Hashem. Once they had created that contract, they would be able to return to the loving relationship with Hashem they had had beforehand, during which He commanded the building of the Mishkan. Thus, it was at this that point that Bnei Yisrael wished to fulfill this Mitzvah.
We can learn a very important lesson in our own lives from the Abarbanel’s answer. The Abarbanel indicates that the Mishkan represents a formal Brit which the Jews have with Hashem. Bnei Yisrael were able to build the Mishkan only after the binding contract with Hashem was established because it needed to be built on love and compassion. Therefore, the Mishkan was the manifestation of the Brit with Hashem. Later in Jewish history, this manifestation was transformed from the Mishkan to the Beit HaMikdash, where the same practices were being conducted. Today, we see this expression in our Shuls. Chazal refer to a Shul as a Mikdash Me’at, a mini Mikdash. When we build a Shul, we are, in a way, attempting to recreate the Mikdash; we must, therefore, create a situation in which the Shul and its atmosphere is truly one which represents our Brit with Hashem. To do this, we cannot be passive and merely acknowledge that the Shul serves this purpose. Rather, we must demonstrate it through our actions. In the Beit HaMikdash we were able to demonstrate the Brit through the daily Avodah of Korbanot among other such services there. Unfortunately, we do not have that ability today. Instead, we must communicate the Brit through other actions in the Shul such as by transforming it into our spiritual center where we have the ability to improve and grow as a Jew. Only then do we have the ability to recognize the Brit we have with Hashem.
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 150:2) writes that when building a Beit HaKeneset, one must do so on the tallest part of the city, and that the Beit HaKeneset should be the largest and tallest building in the city. While this might not be practical physically, spiritually, the obligation stands strong. We must ensure that in our minds the Shul is the largest and most significant building in our lives, as it is the building, like the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash, which represents our loving Brit with Hashem. May we have the Zechut to use the resources which with which we have been blessed today to make our Shuls the most significant building in our lives. They should be conducive to Torah, spiritual growth, and a proper representation of our love and covenant with Hashem.