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In the desert, G-d commanded the People of Israel to "Build for Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell among them" (Ex. 24:8). Later, King David and the prophet Samuel would clarify that Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, where the patriarch Abraham bound Isaac in fulfillment of G-d's command, is the very place that G-d chose to rest His Presence for all time. In the interim, the Creator sought to hasten the time of His intimacy with Israel, and this desire found expression in the Tabernacle. The "Tent of Meeting," as it was called, was indeed a meeting place, where Israel met with the Divine and the entire world witnessed that a nation can live in unity, with G-d in its midst.

Through this simple structure of wooden beams and goat-skin coverings, G-d made His glory known to His people. The Tabernacle was a reduced version of the Holy Temple, adapted to the harsh conditions of desert travel and limited to a more modest scale. At each location along the route of their desert sojourning, the nation camped all around the Tabernacle according to the station of each of the twelve tribes and their families. Thus, the Shechina, the Divine Glory of G-d, literally dwelled in the midst of all Israel. The various families of the tribe of Levi, entrusted with the service of the Tabernacle and its care, camped closer to the center.

When the Children of Israel completed all the tasks for assembling the Tabernacle, Moses blessed them, saying "Fortunate are you, Israel, that you have been found worthy of the service of the Tabernacle! And just as you have merited this, so may you merit to receive the Chosen House, and may the Divine Presence rest among you."

The Midrash abounds with lessons about the meaning and significance of the Tabernacle. Several examples:

"To what can the Tent of Meeting be compared? To a cave that was located near the sea. The sea roared up and flooded the cave - the cave was filled with water, but the sea was not missing anything. So too, the Tent of Meeting was filled with the radiance of the Divine Presence, but the world itself was still filled with that radiance. And when did the Divine Presence dwell in the world? On the day in which the Tabernacle was erected, as it is written, "and it was on the day that Moses finished... "(Num. 7).

"Said the Holy One, blessed be He: In this world, My Shechina was amongst you, and revealed before your eyes in the Tabernacle, as it is written, 'and the sight of the glory of G-d, like a consuming fire, was revealed before the eyes of all Israel' (Ex. 24:17). And in the future, says the L-rd, the Shechina will never budge from you, as it says 'and I will dwell in the midst of the Children of Israel, and I will not leave My people Israel' (Malachi 1:7 - Midrash Tanchuma)."

 

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