22.2. Gifts for the Building of the Tabernacle (25:1-9)

 (1) The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

(2) Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.

(3) And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper;

(4) blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats’ hair;

(5) tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, and acacia wood;

(6) oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense;

(7) lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.

(8) And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.

(9) Exactly as I show you — the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings — so shall you make it.

(2) Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him: The Hebrew word here translated as “gifts” is terumah (whence the name of this weekly Torah portion itself). The construction of the Temple is based on the idea of terumah, a voluntary offering.

It all begins with a person’s voluntary decision from within to approach God. The description of the Temple in the chapters that follow is also sequenced from the inside outward: First the ark that is kept in the Holy of Holies, then the table, the lampstand (menorah), the Tent of Meeting and the planks for the walls of the tent, then the altar in the outer courtyard (the “enclosure”) and the fencing of the courtyard. And by analogy, everything begins with, and derives from, innermost human volition.

(3) And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper: A little later we will see that everything in Tabernacle that pertains to human “greatness” is made of gold, the things that serve as a “base” (foundation) are of silver, and things designed to prepare a person for entering the Tabernacle are made of copper.

(4) Blue, purple, and crimson yarns: The yarns dyed in these colors were made of wool.

Blue: In Hebrew this blue-colored wool is called techelet. It is the same sky-blue wool prescribed by the Torah for the threads of the tzitzit: “Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue (techelet) to the fringe at each corner” (Num. 15:38; see Bible Dynamics there).

Purple, and crimson yarns: Like the techelet, these yarns, essential to the construction of the Tabernacle, were colored with the brilliant, highly-prized dyes that were renowned in antiquity. These materials, in the ancient world more valuable than gold, were found only in the garments of kings (as still preserved in the English term “royal purple”).

Fine linen, goats’ hair: That is, a mixture of wool and linen was used. In civilian life, this combination, called sha’atnez, is expressly forbidden by the Torah: “You shall not wear cloth combining wool and linen” (Deut. 22:11, see also Lev. 19:19[1]).

But the Temple, the representation of Heaven on earth, lies outside the realm of ordinary life. Therefore, in spite of the usual prohibition, the fabrics used in the Temple, including the cloth used to make the priestly garments, were made of wool and linen woven together.

(5) Tanned ram skins: The Hebrew, here translated as “tanned,” is me’odamim, ostensibly from adom, “red.” But these skins were used only as an intermediate layer of the Tabernacle coverings, and as such were visible neither from the inside nor the outside; thus, their color would not have mattered so far as aesthetics were concerned. The commentators therefore believe that me’odamim refers not to the coloring of these skins, but to the particular process that was used to prepare the hides. The translation here, “tanned ram skins,” likewise reflects this view.

Dolphin skins: Tachash has not been positively identified with any animal species known today. Although translated here as “dolphin,” the classical commentators have generally assumed tachash to be some species of horned cattle.

And acacia wood: The acacia is said to be a broad-trunked tree, whose wood is lightweight, absorbs little moisture, and is relatively immune to decay. All the wooden elements of the Tabernacle were made from it.

(6) Oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the aromatic incense: Special olive oil was used for anointing the priests, as well as the Tabernacle itself and its furnishings (29:7, 40:9-11,16).

(7) Lapis lazuli and other stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece: These are the robes of the high priest (see 28:4 ff.).

(8) And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them: God will dwell not only in the Temple, but also “among them,” i.e., the Jewish people. The concept of Shechinah (from the Hebrew root SH‑K‑N, which means “to dwell”) refers to God’s presence – specifically, His presence in our lives. The existence of the Temple deepens and strengthens this connection.

(9) Exactly as I show you — the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings — so shall you make it: Moses on Mount Sinai receives not only verbal descriptions, but even graphical depictions of the Temple and all its furnishings. The “Written Torah” is not limited to the actual written text. Rather, it includes fundamental elucidations of the text as well, because they are so inextricably connected to the written text itself.

[1] For an elaboration of this prohibition of sha’atnez, see Bible Dynamics on Deut. 22:11.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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